SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley (1751-1816), of no fixed address.
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Family and Education
b. Sept. (bap. Dublin 4 Nov.) 1751, 2nd surv. s. of Thomas Sheridan, actor-manager and rhetorician, of Dublin by Frances, da. of Ven. Philip Chamberlaine, DD, of Dublin, archdeacon of Glendalough. educ. Samuel Whyte's sch. Dublin 1758-9; Harrow 1762-8; by Lewis Ker 1769; by Mr Adams at Waltham 1772-3; M. Temple 1773. m. (1) 13 Apr. 1773, Elizabeth Ann (d. 28 June 1792), da. of Thomas Linley, dir. of Bath concerts, 1s. 1da. d.v.p.;1 (2) 27 Apr. 1795, Esther Jane, da. of Very Rev. Newton Ogle, dean of Winchester, 1s.; 1da. illegit.
Under-sec. of state for Foreign affairs Apr.-July 1782; sec. to Treasury Apr.-Dec. 1783; receiver, duchy of Cornwall Mar. 1804-Mar. 1807, Apr. 1808-d.; PC 7 Feb. 1806; treasurer of navy 1806-7.
Lt.-col. St. James's vols. 1803-4, Somerset Place vols. 1807.
No political party could comfortably accommodate in its ranks a figure like Sheridan, ‘perhaps the first genius of the age’, who lived on applause. Acclaimed on all sides as the nonpareil of orators after his speeches against Warren Hastings 1787-8, his career reached a pinnacle which eluded him thereafter. He had introduced prolixity in the House of Commons, but the question remained whether he had any further political contribution to make. This was put to the test soon afterwards, during the Regency crisis. Had the Whigs taken office, he was expected to become treasurer of the navy and president of the Board of Control, though his ambitions were said to be higher: chancellor of the Exchequer or
some cabinet office, when he supposes the public may have been long enough accustomed to consider him as a person high in office, and therefore entitled to take the place in the state which his abilities would justify without the envy belonging to the sudden elevation of an upstart.
As it was, his role was confined to that of indispensable mediator between the Whigs and the Prince of Wales, whose friendship was at once the pride and the disappointment of his life. According to his fond sister Betsy: ‘When a head is wanted, they have recourse to him: every difficult negotiation, every instance to be rectified is put upon him’. Nothing could have been more dangerous for a man whose prime attribute was vanity: Sheridan emerged from the crisis tainted with a reputation for political intrigue which pursued him for the rest of his life.2
Next to becoming the Prince’s favourite, Sheridan wished to be Charles James Fox’s. Joining Fox in his admiration for the French revolution, he broke with Edmund Burke, his rival for Fox’s friendship, in debate on the subject in February 1790 and all attempts at reconciliation were unavailing. Burke maintained that Sheridan with his ‘great eagerness and zeal for popularity’ meant to make ‘some popular speech in favour of the French revolution’, but was frustrated by his own spirited denunciation of it. (Nor in the event did Sheridan manage anything more than fragmentary drafts of a rejoinder to Burke’s Reflections.) Burke’s son Richard claimed, 29 July 1790:
Sheridan has, not unwarily and unwittingly of the conseqences, avowedly come forward to put himself at the head of the spirit of innovation in this country ... he is undoubtedly a man of a deep and systematic ambition, and by no means a weak enthusiast, as he would give himself out to be, in this or in any other business. He sees as deep and as far as any man.
He went on to quote Sheridan:
What a noble meeting we had at the Crown and Anchor ... Don’t you think we gain ground ... The thing spreads ... Fox and I were to have gone to Paris to be present at the confederation but there is no fixing him to an engagement ... What a fine thing it would be now if the Whig Club was to meet the Revolution Society, to celebrate the triumph of liberty without distinction of parties—on general principles.
Discouraged by Fox from again attending a French revolution jubilee a year later, he consoled himself by offering hospitality at Isleworth ‘to a numerous political party, vying in splendour and luxury with the most ostentatious festivals of the opulent’.3
Even ‘the King of Drury Lane’ could ill afford such extravagant exhibitionism. Since 1779 he had rested on his laurels as a dramatic genius and only ephemera, inspired by public events, were to come; not even for a wager could he write another masterpiece. He was the exasperating manager of a theatre the affairs of which fell into disarray while he dabbled in politics. The death in 1792 of his wife, estranged by his infidelity, filled him with remorse, but ‘misery from memory and a horror of reflection’ intensified his involvement in the excitement of politics as a palliative. He even preferred to be ‘plagued morning, noon, and night’ over the complications of his theatrical affairs, redoubled by an obsessive unpunctuality which ensured that he was at all times a wanted man, than to take stock of his situation.4
To the Parliament of 1790 Sheridan was again returned for Stafford, where ‘every election drained his purse’ and where ‘the electors ... were never so dear to him’ before. He aspired to the role in debate of shadow chancellor of the Exchequer. A keen critic of government expenditure, he failed in the ballot for the finance committee in April 1791, though he was placed on the committee to investigate the Prince of Wales’s financial problems. His best effort that session (Fox said his best to date) was a speech next day in support of Grey’s Oczakov resolutions, of which he privately admitted, ‘I am half convinced on the other side’. He was listed a supporter of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland at that time. On 21 Apr. he sought credit for a bid to prevent the rift between Fox and Burke by securing the adjournment of the Quebec bill, on which they duly clashed on 6 May, Sheridan taking Fox’s part. Pitt brushed aside his resolutions against the report of the finance committee, 3 June, to be informed by Sheridan, 17 Feb. 1792, in the debate on the address, that his was a ‘bustling and dangerous administration ... arming and disarming, taxing and untaxing’. He attacked the armament against Russia ‘very well ... but very late’, 29 Feb. 1792, commenting, ‘But what is the good of it all?’. Nothing came of his resumption in April of the campaign he had begun four years before to reform the Scottish burghs, but as a member of the reform committee of the Friends of the People he rebuked Pitt (30 Apr.) for deserting the reformers’ cause.5
Sheridan seconded Fox’s attempt of 13 Dec. 1792 to prevent war with revolutionary France, but added, ‘if war it must be, let us be resolute and strike terror into our enemies’. After this flourish he rallied to Fox in stating the case for negotiation. He was prepared to support additional naval force, 20 Dec., and deplored the revolutionaries’ abuse of the French royal family, but clashed with Burke over the latter’s ‘volunteer crusade of vengeance, of which no man can see the end’. He repudiated war, 31 Jan. and 1 Feb. 1793, especially with despotic allies, and rebuked Burke for his tales of Fox’s and his own healths being drunk by the expatriate Jacobins in Paris, 12 Feb. Out of doors he was a champion of the Friends of the Liberty of the Press, and on 21 Feb., in the House, defended the Friends of the People against Burke; on 4 Mar. he sought to discredit coercion against sedition at home. Continuing in the same sense, he was all but labelled a traitor by Burke on 26 Mar. and was caricatured at this time as a sansculotte conspirator. Pitt replied to Sheridan’s motion of 25 Apr., citing Lord Auckland’s conduct at The Hague as proof that the war was one of vengeance, that its object was ‘indemnification for the past and security for the future’; but Sheridan called for peace as a remedy for commercial distress, 30 Apr., and saw no reason for giving up parliamentary reform, in support of which he produced a Glasgow petition 50 yards long.6
Sheridan commenced the session of 1794 with the only speech he is known to have revised for the press, in reproof of a futile war. This was at a time when, according to Burke, ‘Sheridan and all the rest are sickened by the cutting off their friend Egalité, Brissot, and the company of their patriotic friends and correspondents. They have no longer any link ... with France.’ Burke was mistaken in his assumption that a rapprochement would ensue. William Windham, whose desertion Sheridan often rebuked in debate, maintained that while Fox was not a republican, ‘in spirit Sheridan and [John] Courtenay are’. This was a distortion: Sheridan, making a point against Dundas in debate on 21 Feb., showed concern over the vulnerability of Nova Scotia and on 7 Apr. he swallowed the volunteer bill; but he maintained what he regarded as a constitutional opposition, sympathizing with the Scottish radicals sentenced to transportation and opposing the landing of foreign mercenaries in England, as well as the raising of troops by voluntary subscription without consent of Parliament (in a resolution of 28 Mar., described by the King as ‘very mischievous’). The enlistment of French émigrés, which he attempted to limit, confirmed his fear that the restoration of the ancien régime was the war aim, as he deplored in an ‘animated speech’, 17 Apr. He therefore moved against the subsidy to Prussia, 2 May and 10 July. In opposition to the suspension of habeas corpus, 16, 17 May, 16 June, he raised the notion of a Whig secession in protest and on 26 May tried in vain to interest the House in relief for dissenters during the war. Thomas Pelham wrote of him at this time:
Sheridan is unquestionably a great orator but his eloquence is not convincing; and it is very remarkable in him that though he charms and fascinates the House more than any man in it, no one gives credit to what he says or believes him to be in earnest.
In the view of the Portland Whigs who joined Pitt in July 1794, Sheridan had been one of the chief obstacles to a rapprochement between them and Fox, who had ‘chosen and continued to identify himself too much with a companion who, till now, has always appeared unworthy of him’. The schism had damaged the management of the trial of Warren Hastings: Sheridan could no longer act cordially on a question espoused so vehemently by Burke, and his own last speech as a manager, 14 May 1794, failed of its intended effect. Eleven years later, when he met him at Brighton Pavilion, Sheridan ‘lost no time in attempting to cajole old Hastings’, though he was ‘obliged to mutter and get out of’ any public recantation. He seems to have attempted likewise in November 1794 to cajole Earl Fitzwilliam, no doubt with a view to securing him for opposition, by talk of postponing reform and of ‘much more real grounds of alarm, than he had suspected—that there was a set of mischievous conspirators’. Yet when the House met, he at once tried to secure the repeal of the suspension of habeas corpus and applauded the recent acquittal of the political prisoners on whose behalf he had given evidence. He supported Wilberforce’s plea for peace and on 6 Jan. 1795 in a speech of ‘great violence’ assured Pitt that the logic of his policy was ‘no peace till we conquered France or France conquered us’. He pressed for negotiation, 26 Jan., and spoke, though ‘only for five minutes’, but ‘forced a reply from Pitt’ on behalf of Grey’s motion for peace, 6 Feb., after absenting himself the night before, one of only six recorded divisions that he is known to have missed during that Parliament. He missed two others in 1795 following his second marriage. This was governed by vanity on both sides, and soon reached an impasse of mutual torment until real adversity redeemed it. He voted in one minority he had intended to avoid, Sumner’s on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June 1795: he went on to declare that the public should not pay a shilling and that the duchy of Cornwall revenues, or a reduction of sinecures, should defray them. Next session he was a leading opponent in and out of the House of measures against sedition, defending the Corresponding Society in a ‘brutal’ speech against the reported evidence of disaffection, 17 Nov. On 3 Dec. he advocated passive resistance to the legislation and on 14 Dec. secured the prosecution of John Reeves for an ultra-monarchist pamphlet ‘reflecting on the late glorious revolution’ [of 1688]. Fox had to restrain him from playing Catiline at the Westminster public meeting against coercive measures on 16 Nov. and Charles Abbot described him at this time as follows:
Fluent in speech, shrewd in his conceptions, dextrous in argumentation, neat and over-terse in his prepared speeches, witty often when his subject requires gravity; malignant always at heart, though often playful in manner; the most active and mischievous partisan of the republican faction, playing off Fox as a constitutional opposer of the King’s ministers, and acting himself, hand and heart, with the most desperate Jacobins.
(Abbot further alleged that Sheridan, who had advised the radical conspirator Stone against collusion with the Irish rebel Jackson, but did not inform on Jackson, was thereby ‘guilty of misprision of treason, by stat. 1 and 2 W. and M.’).7
After giving a sarcastic reception to ministerial hints of peace negotiations, 9 Dec. 1795, Sheridan maintained his hostile stance for the rest of that session. On 25 Jan. 1796 he denounced the war at the London tavern. He refused to consult with ministers on his motion for information on the disastrous West Indian expedition and secured some of his points, 28 Apr. He would not allow them ‘a patent of monopoly for high and lofty tones’. In the summer of 1796 he was disconcerted to be brushed aside by the Prince of Wales when he tried to reconcile him with the Princess, a snub for which the Prince sought and obtained credit with the King and Queen. Sheridan consoled himself by purchasing the Polesden estate of Sir William Geary* and playing the country gentleman. On the eve of the next Parliament he wrote to his wife, 6 Oct. 1796, ‘So peace is now the word—and these vile monsters of ministers after shedding oceans of blood and breaking thousands of hearts are going to do what Fox proposed three years ago’. That session, in concert with Fox, he opposed additional defence measures against invasion as unnecessary, thinking the threat imaginary, and condemned the imperial loan. He deplored the failure of peace negotiations, 24 Dec. On 27 Feb. 1797 in a ‘violent speech’ he moved that the imperial subsidy be delayed until the stoppage of cash payments by the Bank, for which he held it responsible, was investigated. He failed to secure the inclusion of Fox in the committee of inquiry, but was himself of it and an active member of the finance committee. He predicted that national bankruptcy would follow the introduction of paper credit. In April, after championing popular meetings in a Whig Club speech, he denounced the government at the Hampshire county meeting.8
Sheridan joined in the defence of Grey’s reform motion of 26 May 1797, the prelude to the Foxite secession. Lord Morpeth reported: ‘Sheridan spoke well, but after having said he was no egotist, spoke more about himself and more to his own credit than I have ever heard anyone’. A few days earlier he had been described as unfavourable to reform at present and ‘traduced as wishing to abandon Mr Fox and to promote a new administration’. Lord Moira cleared him of this charge, maintaining that Sheridan had refused his overture to consider belonging to a ministry from which Fox was excluded. Charles Grey, however, claimed that the idea of a new ministry without Fox was first proposed to Fox himself by Sheridan and that Fox consented but, at Sheridan’s request, did not divulge it to Grey until the eve of the reform motion, when Sheridan came to Grey to propose it from Moira: Grey peremptorily rejected it. In this visionary ministry, Sheridan was apparently to be joint-paymaster of the forces. Secession certainly did not appeal to him; on 2 June, after previously blaming ministers for the naval mutiny, he rounded on the mutineers in debate and called for national unity. This he called his speech ‘pro aris et focis’; it conciliated Henry Dundas, but left Pitt unmoved and puzzled Fox, whose reaction was that Sheridan could not ‘add much to the strength’ of any coalition government, owing to ‘that incurable itch that he seems to have of distinguishing his conduct from that of those with whom he wishes to be supposed united’. Within a week he made a kind of retraction at the Whig Club, approving the secession. To his wife he protested, 20 Sept., that he hated the thought of office, but he believed that, if peace was to be made with France, the Whigs must come in.9
On 12 Dec. 1797 Sheridan readily emerged from secession, ahead of Fox, to object to Pitt’s triple tax assessment. At that time he was heard lamenting Fox’s attachment to ‘reform, etc.’ which must be a bar to office at a moment when Pitt was unpopular enough to be toppled. On 4 Jan. 1798 he called for the dismissal of Pitt as a prelude to peace, suggesting voluntary subscription in place of assessed taxes. On 20 Apr. he reappeared in Fox’s absence to ask ministers not to lose sight of peace: they had not asked for his help (a querulous note?). He admitted that his attachment to reform, civil liberty and Ireland made it difficult for him to come to terms with them. He then voted in the minority against the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland. Pitt found some parts of this speech ‘very useful’, but the King ‘wished to guard Mr Pitt against any too marked approbation’ of him. To Lord Camden, Pitt wrote that Sheridan’s speech had ‘done him some credit, and not too much; and added to the disgrace of his friends’. On 8 May he surfaced again, denying that there was any conspiracy to assist a French invasion and deploring attempts at political proscription, with reference to the case of Arthur O’Connor, on which he was minority teller on 11 June. He also opposed the land tax redemption, 18 and 30 May, and gave notice of a motion for inquiry into the state of Ireland for 14 June. On the 12th the Duke of Portland wrote to Pitt:
Sheridan does not attempt to conceal that his object in making the motion is to do all the mischief he possibly can, and assigns your treatment of him as the cause and as a full justification of this act of resentment.
(That he was capable of such acts of resentment Lady Bessborough, the cause of his last quarrel with his first wife, often testified, being relentlessly besieged by him.) His ‘eloquent’ plea for Ireland was made to an empty gallery, though, in the interests of the liberty of the press, he invariably resented its being cleared. On 19 June, on the militia offer bill, he warned ministers that ‘to keep Ireland against the will of the people is a vain expectation’, and on 22 June, after failing to persuade Fox to attend, he supported Lord George Cavendish’s Irish motion. On 23 Jan. 1799 he attacked the Anglo-Irish union, based on ‘surprise, fraud, corruption and intimidation’; he thought it no answer to the poverty and ignorance that beset Ireland and that only an ‘arch Jacobin’ like Pitt could propose it, 31 Jan., 7 Feb. He voted against it then and, after advocating Catholic relief, on 11 Feb. He stalked out of the House in protest next day, denying the right of the Irish parliament to surrender its sovereignty.10
Lady Holland reported that Sheridan ‘was expected to have made a capital speech ... on the Union ... but it was reckoned very inferior to his usual style of excellence’. Besides:
He offended the seceders by announcing that the standard of opposition would soon be unfurled ... He pursued a strain of irony, apparently levelled at Lord Lansdowne, but, in fact, intended for Tierney, who had, in a late speech, declared that he considered himself as an individual belonging to no set of men ... Sheridan hates Tierney.
Of his lapse from favour with the Prince of Wales, she had this to say:
This malentendu will vex Sheridan beyond measure, for he has ever since the Regency courted the Prince, and anticipated in imagination much influence in a future reign; besides that he has wished to be considered as being as much the organ of the Prince in the House of Commons as Lord Moira is in the House of Lords ... His defenders (and their number is but slender) say that all his bad conduct has proceeded from his struggling against the meanness of his origin and the littleness of his means.
But Lady Holland was no apologist for him: she believed that it was his evidence at O’Connor’s trial at Maidstone in May 1798 that had led to Lord Thanet’s being convicted as an accomplice:
when questioned ... Sheridan, instead of answering immediately paused, and then replied satisfactorily to the interrogation, but this silence of several minutes previous to replying sufficed in the minds of the jury ... Sheridan, since he gained such credit as a witness in the state trials (Horne Tooke’s) by his wit and repartee, can never give a direct answer, and is always more occupied how to gain applause by his reply than how to serve those in favour of whom he is called.
Though ‘in a great rage’ at such allegations, Sheridan did not answer them satisfactorily. In May 1799 he reappeared in the House, principally to assist Burdett’s efforts on behalf of political prisoners at Coldbath Fields. At the same time, at Drury Lane, he struck a patriotic note in an adaptation of Kotzebue’s Pizarro. Fox, who thought this ‘the worst thing possible’, described him to Grey as ‘fuller of absurd notions than ever man was—but do not say I say so’. Lady Holland, however, was ‘glad to find that drinking has not so totally absorbed his faculties and that he is still sensible to fame’.11
After a brief appearance in the House to criticize the Helder expedition, 26 Sept. 1799, Sheridan resumed regular attendance in 1800. The ideas for his critical motion of 10 Feb. for inquiry into the failure of the expedition came from Lord Holland, whose intended speech in the Lords he cribbed. On 17 Feb. he poured scorn on the allies and called for peace. He continued to oppose the suspension of habeas corpus and the Irish union, though, in revenge for his neglect the year before, he avoided Grey’s motion of 25 Apr.: his pretext was that it was ‘too moderate’. On 27 June he moved for a call of the House to debate peace. His chief success however, was to obtain an inquiry into Coldbath Fields prison. Of this he wrote to his wife, 23 July:
Yesterday’s debate turned out more to my satisfaction than almost anything I ever took a part in since I have been in the House of Commons. I made the Speaker bitter, and I really think I smote Pitt’s conscience. In short we carried our point ... I own I am extremely pleased at this event though it does not seem of the importance of great political questions. The gallery was immensely full, and the result gives universal satisfaction. I don’t send you the papers—for there is not one of them that gives an idea of the debate, which the citizens who have been with me this morning are outrageous at.
Lady Holland reported another characteristic achievement of Sheridan’s in connexion with the adultery bill, June 1800, against which he made an ‘admirable speech’, again from matter supplied to him by Lord Holland. At the committee stage, having undertaken to secure an amendment,
Sheridan arrived breathless from haste, examined the words, declared the sentence neither grammar, logic or sense, and employed near two hours to convince the committee that the ambiguous words should be expunged. They were so. The difference lay between ‘shall have been declared’ and ‘shall be’.
Sheridan’s jealousy of Charles Grey, whom Fox wished to lead the opposition in his absence, was reflected in his conduct on the address, 11 Nov. 1800, when he upstaged Grey. On Grey’s complaining to Fox of such ‘mischief’, he was consoled with the assurance that Sheridan was ‘sure to come right’. Not only was there a feud between Grey and him on ‘money transactions’, as Sheridan all too readily disclosed, but he knew that ‘nobody will serve under him, and so he cannot help himself’, as Canning put it. Sheridan recanted in debate, 19 Nov., and in a letter to Grey, 23 Nov. Fox, the peacemaker, concluded, ‘Sheridan will never do anything quite wrong in politics, but whether he will ever go on very steadily and straightforward I doubt’. Also in the throes of his ‘incurable jealousy’ of Tierney, Sheridan went on to annoy him by persisting in a motion on the Egyptian armistice, 20 Nov. 1800. This time Grey reconciled him with Tierney, which earned him a compliment when Sheridan moved for a separate peace, 1 Dec. The motion was panned by the King and thought, in presentation, ‘very much below himself and his reply stupid and feeble’ by Canning, but the Whigs were better pleased with him: Fox was sure he would ‘get back some way or another’.12
Sheridan was a prominent critic of Pitt’s resignation in favour of Addington and his ‘skeleton administration’. Proposing an opposition nominee for the Chair, 11 Feb. 1801, he announced that he could have no confidence in Addington, unless he was satisfied that his principles were not those of Pitt. But on 27 Feb., once more disobliging Grey, he moved an adjournment rather than suffer a debate on the King’s illness. This speech received rave reviews. To quote Lady Stafford, it ‘did him great credit, and I supposed it from his heart. His enemies say it was dictated by his head, allowing the last to be equal to anybody’s.’ But neither he nor Grey could make ‘the least head’ against Addington on Irish questions and on 27 Mar. he accused the premier of shielding Pitt, whom he wished to ‘incriminate’. He was further disappointed at the renewal of repressive measures, 15 Apr., and opposed indemnification of such ‘disloyalty against the people of England’, 11 June. Nevertheless he was in concert with Addington on the clergy non-residence bill, speaking from the Treasury bench, 22 June, and he was courted by the ministerial press. This was against a background of private insecurity. The affairs of Drury Lane were in Chancery, and Sheridan, clinging to the management, was thereafter nearly always short of ‘a little ready money ... to smooth the wheels’. Placing the theatre in the hands of trustees, Lord Eldon roundly informed him that ‘negligence and irregularity long continued make knowledge useless, wit ridiculous, and genius contemptible’. Recourse to the consolation of alcohol took its toll of him.13
Sheridan’s role in the House became ambiguous after the peace preliminaries with France were announced. He concurred, 29 Oct. 1801, with the qualification that the peace was one ‘which every man ought to be glad of, but no man can be proud of ... but perhaps as good as any man could make in the circumstances’. (This verdict was cribbed from Philip Francis*.) Lord Glenbervie commented, ‘I believe every man who heard him agreed with him in his heart’. Even when ministers ‘nodded assent’ to him and he prepared to swallow certain of their measures, such as the augmentation of the militia, Sheridan was not anxious to see Fox lead his party into Addington’s camp merely in order to preserve peace. He indicated, apart from ‘zeal to establish his own character as the only one in the kingdom to be depended upon ... a desire ... of shaming his friends out of an arrangement which he may suspect they incline to’; he referred in debate to his preference for ‘that little circle of a constitutional party’ over a ministry that had a ‘mysterious connection’ with Pitt’s, and he likened Addington to ‘a sort of outside passenger ... while reins and whip, and all, are in the hands of the coachman on the box’. This was ‘Sheridan infinitely witty, having been drinking’. On the other hand he resisted the bellicose stance of Windham and the Grenvillites on the peace treaty. For a time he toyed with a topic of his own, an attack on Lord Wellesley’s aggressive policy in India. This intention gave Lord Grenville a pretext for a feeler to Pitt in March, but Sheridan did not offer it to the House until 23 June 1802. After this flourish and many promises, he reluctantly abandoned the subject to others.14
In the election of 1802 Addington was supposed to have discouraged a ‘mercenary opposition’ to Sheridan at Stafford. Sheridan had been prepared, if Fox should retire, to replace him in his seat for Westminster, if not as party leader. He disapproved the Foxite exodus to Paris, as he ‘did not wish to have received any civility which might interfere with his manner of speaking of Buonaparte’. The consequence was his spectacular speech on the army estimates, 8 Dec., in support of precautions against Buonaparte’s aggression. Canning reported, 29 Nov., ‘if Fox had not kept him away on the first day of the session, he would have been wholly in our sense’ and claimed that ‘Fox was completely routed and broken’ by this speech; but it was the absent Pitt for whom Sheridan was gunning and against him that he now offered to shield the ministry. Fox remarked that Sheridan’s speech ‘gave more concern to his friends and satisfaction to his enemies, than any he ever made’: it was ‘a very foolish speech, if a speech full of wit can be with propriety so called ... He will, however, I have no doubt, be still right in the end.’ Fox alone supported him: Erskine thought it ‘provoking and mischievous’ and Tierney ‘on the whole of infinite service to government’. As if to confirm this, Lord Limerick reported:
But above all Sheridan stood pre-eminent. At times he convulsed the House with laughter, at times he raised every generous patriotic feeling that could warm the heart of a Briton. He was deservedly complimented for his talents and patriotism by every side of the House.
It was supposed that Sheridan had ‘a view more or less distant of joining them in office’. Addington seemed not averse to it when he accepted an amendment of his to exclude Members from the naval commission of inquiry, of which Sheridan otherwise strongly approved, 18 Dec. Despite this flirtation (which also involved Tierney and Grey), the ministerial reshuffle which merely benefited Addington’s brother in January 1803 seemed to close the chapter for the time being.15
One question on which Sheridan could not concur with Addington was the Prince of Wales’s financial claims. On 23 Feb. 1803 he proposed for the Prince that he should give up the arrears of the duchy of Cornwall revenues in exchange for the settlement of his debts. On 4 Mar. he again convulsed the House when he ridiculed the reduction of official grandeur which his critics expected of the Prince. (In this vein his Swiftian attack on St. Pancras workhouse on 4 Apr. was equally effective.) But he continued to support Addington’s defence precautions, 8 and 18 Mar., and while adopting a more critical role on 6 May, met Addington’s wishes by dropping an awkward motion on the rupture of diplomatic relations with France on 20 May. He did not support Fox’s attack on Pitt and Lord Grenville, 23 May, but was immune to hints from Windham that he might join a patriotic alliance. Grey feared that he was ‘going again to play the devil’, but in response to a report in June that he had refused an offer from Addington to be secretary of war, he quipped: ‘it might as soon be expected that Whitbread and Grey should insult each other as that he should ever quit Fox’. Addington recalled Sheridan informing him, as his dinner guest, ‘My visits to you may possibly be misconstrued by my friends; but I hope you know, Mr Addington, that I have an unpurchaseable mind’; then, with an eye to the gods, ‘I have too many irregularities in private life to reproach myself with, but I may safely say that my conscience is clear towards my country’.16
Treated to such displays of high-mindedness, Addington might have seen his advantage in retaining Sheridan’s support gratis. Lord Grenville, who noted in January 1803 that Sheridan ‘in his daily conversation’ supported ‘the present government, as the only means of keeping Pitt out’, concluded that Pitt was unlikely to tolerate Sheridan and Fox as allies and that if Addington kept his distance from them to please Pitt, ‘they will probably go off much faster and much farther than he could wish’. Unlike Pitt, however, Sheridan, who abstained on 24 May 1803, supported the ministry against Patten’s censure motion on 3 June. After the subsequent rumoured ‘arrangements including Lord Moira, Sheridan and others’, Grenville decided ‘that the Doctor [Addington] would be glad so to strengthen himself against Pitt, I have no doubt, because to look two or three months forward, to the time when such allies would treat him as he deserves, very far exceeds the reach of his sagacity’. In any case, Sheridan upheld and encouraged Addington’s war measures and on 28 July made a notable concession to the premier by swallowing coercion in Ireland after the Dublin rising. Addington thereupon assured a cheering House that
it was sentiments like these which would in the eyes of his country and in the future pages of history, stamp immortal glory on his name. I venerate his conduct, and I trust he will find that reward which I am convinced alone he looks for, in the annals of the history of his country.
Reproached by Windham for inconsistency, Sheridan claimed that he had ‘never engaged in opposition to the present administration’ and on 1 Aug. he supported them at the Surrey county meeting. He felt obliged, for the Prince’s sake, to support (as teller) Fox’s motion on 2 Aug. for a council of general officers to conduct the war, but on 4 and 5 Aug., speaking from the Treasury bench, he had the satisfaction of humiliating Windham in defence of the popular press, aptly describing himself to him as a ‘volunteer’, not a ‘recruit’, in politics. On 10 Aug., as a colonel, he moved a vote of thanks to the volunteers. Wilberforce commented:
Sheridan fights lustily for Addington. He proposed a sufficiently absurd vote of thanks last night ... but you see that the affectionate regard of government to him knows no bounds in this honeymoon of their union. By the way Lord St. Vincent lately offered Tom Sheridan a most lucrative place which Sheridan refused: very wisely I think.
Repelling Philip Francis’s charge of inconsistency, he explained that his stance on 2 Aug. was not a commitment to opposition and that he had since satisfied himself that Fox’s proposal was inadvisable. Windham drew attention to his absence from the debate on Ireland next day. This was about the time Sheridan made the premier so drunk that he nearly fell into the Thames, so the story went. Fox regretted privately that Sheridan had ‘outdone his usual outdoings. Folly beyond all the past, but what degree of folly will not extreme levity and vanity be capable of producing.’ Lord Robert Spencer, informing Grey that Sheridan had alluded to Grey’s father as the person whose opinion had changed his mind on Fox’s proposal added, 22 Aug.:
You will have seen how devilishly Francis galled Sheridan. The Prince was very angry and went to St. Anne’s chiefly to complain of Sheridan, but since that Sheridan came drunk to Brooks’ from dining tête-à-tête with him and told everybody that he had made it up and convinced the Prince that he had been almost right.
Fox had anticipated this, writing to Grey on 8 Aug.:
I should not be surprised if Sheridan had persuaded him [the Prince] that we all, who acted according to his declared and anxious wishes, had done him disservice, and that his policy was to support the Doctor ... Sheridan is mad with vanity and folly, but what he is driving at I do not know, nor, I believe, does he. Some say he means to exhibit a sort of contrast to Tierney; I cannot help thinking how Tierney must laugh at him, if he hears this.
But French Laurence* wrote to Fitzwilliam, 11 Aug.:
Sheridan will not join them. He would not even suffer his son to accept a good place in the particular patronage of Lord St. Vincent, who offered, it is said, to give the father a licence at the same time to abuse ministers as much as he would. He did indeed abuse them very fairly to me as we walked away together after one of his late panegyrics upon them. I regard neither the one nor the other. He has too much pride and ambition to accept anything which Mr Addington can or will give him. He will not, if I know him at all, submit to be subordinate to the present cabinet and placed on a level with Tierney; following too in his wake on the other hand, he is daily losing, or rather had already lost, the regard of all his former connections, has merely confirmed himself in the favour of the newspapers, gained some popularity among the volunteer corps who do not see through his policy; and not yet succeeded in his attempt of drawing after him the following of an Irish party.
(Tierney alleged later that Sheridan soon sought for another friend the place at Malta which he had refused for his son.) Although Fox expected a change in Carlton House politics, with Lord Moira replacing Sheridan in the Prince’s favour (18 Aug.), he was disabused on learning that the Prince and Sheridan ‘were getting drunk tête-Ã-tête’. Lady Bessborough claimed that Sheridan blamed not his own conduct but the treachery of herself and her sister for the Prince’s fit of displeasure,
that as to politics we only saw through the eyes of one man (Mr Fox), which was always bad enough even before it was dashed with the Grenville infection ... That he himself (poor innocent), being the only real good and honourable politician, was hated for this reason, and that we by way of serving our mottled party scrupled no lies against him, either as to his public or private character. The Prince replied by telling him he would not hear his friends abused ... that he always should retain great private affection for him, but that before he could trust him as a political adviser his conduct must be explained, and he must state explicitly his future intentions ... Meanwhile Sheridan tells Hecca [his wife] that the Prince is at his feet, and Lady Abercorn asks me in a letter whether I do not now admit that Mr Pitt and Mr Fox ought to bow down and kneel before this divinity who is so superior to them, and who must give strength and success to every administration he conducts ... if Sheridan did not tarnish all his talents by duplicity and inordinate vanity, I should approve of a great deal of his language and conduct, but then a great deal is quite disgusting, and it is impossible to trust him for a moment.17
On 9 Sept. 1803 Lady Bessborough reported that, despite Sheridan’s efforts, Addington had not succeeded in conciliating the Prince, and two days later that the Prince had ‘lost the confidence he had in him’, but that Sheridan had
behaved very handsomely with respect to places. The offers to him were unlimited; he rejected them all, and also a great place for Tom at Malta. A few days ago ... Tom was appointed aide de camp to the Duke of York, with some place in his household. Sheridan expressed his surprise ... [he was told] it was his Majesty’s express command that Mr T. Sheridan should be provided for. Sheridan refused everything. The Prince told him that both he and Mr Fox thought him wrong in doing so; that Mr Fox particularly said that, as he had had no doubt Sheridan acted sincerely, according to his opinion, in supporting ministers, he could see no reason why, approving of them, he should not take some place of responsibility with them, and that if he, Sheridan, would not for himself, it was quite wrong to leave Tom unprovided for. Sheridan answered that his situation was peculiar, subject to great misrepresentation, and that his receiving anything like emolument for himself or family from ministers would contaminate the purity of his support and dishonour him for ever; and in short, that he had refused, and the whole transaction was at an end. That Mr Fox was wrong: for that he did not support ministers from approving of them, on the contrary he thought them very bad, but anything was better than a junction between Mr Pitt and Fox, which he still dreaded. The Prince said ‘I am afraid your fears are groundless, nothing so good for the country is likely to take place ...’ ‘Good God, Sir! What do I hear? Is it possible you should speak thus of that man?’ ... then with tears in his eyes he entreated the Prince to beware and withstand the snare preparing for him; said he saw how it was that the Prince and his dearest interests were to be sacrificed to political prostitution, and the Prince given up to his most inveterate enemy ‘And this Fox calls friendship for your Royal Highness, and such friendship outweighs, in your opinion, my tried devotion’.18
Sheridan’s abuse of Fox, repeated by him at Woburn, led to a quarrel with Robert Adair*, but Adair stood no chance in argument with him, and Whitbread, who played the peacemaker, ‘became so vehement that if luckily Sheridan who began sober, had not ended drunk and fallen asleep, it was thought impossible to prevent serious consequences’. Nevertheless the Prince agreed to inform Fox
that Sheridan was so miserable from supposing that Mr Fox was displeased with him, that the Prince made it his particular desire to Mr Fox that he would come up to town and meet Sheridan in his presence. Sheridan gave a long explanation of his conduct, resting all his justification upon the dread of a junction between Mr Pitt and Mr Fox. The latter replied ‘that is in plain English that enmity to one man is stronger in your mind than the safety or ruin of the country’. When Fox informed Sheridan that he hoped for the good of the country he and Pitt might agree, and ‘that the questions they differed on would not be broached ‘That they shall, by G—’, interrupted Sheridan, ‘if Tierney or I can find them’ ... Fox came away leaving Sheridan in a fury.19
When he discovered in October 1803 that Tierney was toying with the idea of procuring Pitt for Addington before Fox could coalesce with Pitt, Sheridan swore, ‘I had rather see Fox dead than joined with Pitt and whilst I have life I will never suffer it’. When Tierney demonstrated the need for reinforcements, ‘Sheridan flew out again into a long rodomontade of attachment to the Prince, and belonging to no party, but ended with taking a sort of message to Lord Moira’. This was another bid of Addington’s for the Carlton House interest, but Fox was consulted by the Prince and it failed. Thomas Creevey, who saw Sheridan in August and reported that he had a plan for Ireland, ‘the substitution of a council for the present viceroy, the head of the council to be the Prince of Wales, his assistants to be Lord Moira, Lord Hutchinson and Sheridan himself’, believed Sheridan was ‘very much in the confidence of the ministers. They have convinced him of the difficulty of pressing the King for any attentions to the Prince of Wales’. Sheridan certainly cultivated Addington at this time, but other members of the government were not so keen to recruit him: Lord Hardwicke wrote, 11 Oct. 1803:
With respect to Sheridan, though he has had sense enough to place himself well in the public opinion by his conduct upon different occasions ... yet he does not stand high in the public estimation, and would add no strength, besides that of occasionally a good speech.
George Rose reported that provision was to be made for Tom Sheridan as a reward for his father’s services and that Sir John Morshead would make way for him as surveyor-general of the duchy of Cornwall. Nothing came of this then, but Fox reported to Grey, 19 Oct., after seeing Moira, that Sheridan ‘had as much weight’ with the Prince as ever and ‘had almost, if not quite, persuaded him that it was his intention not to break entirely with the Doctor’. He added that, if Sheridan joined Addington, ‘it is to be feared that many will follow Sheridan whom (quos not quem—for that I consider past praying for) we should be sorry to lose’. At the end of November, after a meeting with the Prince and Sheridan at Moira’s, Fox consented to Sheridan’s discussing terms for an arrangement with Addington; he later explained that, as he did not expect success, he thought the go-between should be a person who wished a junction to take place.
The negotiation failed and Fox reported that Sheridan was ‘even more gone than I had supposed’, opposing the revival of the Irish Catholic question, as it would ‘drive the Catholics to despair and ingratiate Pitt with the King’; and being unwilling to tell Fox the truth of the failure of his mediatory efforts and absenting himself from the House when Francis intended to raise the question of the Prince of Wales’s not being employed. ‘If, even where the Prince’s name is in question, and on a subject upon which his (the P[rince]’s) eagerness is well known, Sheridan does not differ from the Doctor, the inference is too plain’. Fox found it all the more necessary to attend at the opening of the new session, to indicate ‘that his sentiments are not to be looked for in Sheridan’s contrivances’. Whitbread informed Grey, 6 Dec., that Sheridan ‘most unexpectedly came down ... three days before Parliament met and made a great fuss about being up for an hour’s conversation with Fox before the debate began’. Wilberforce heard a report that ‘Sheridan tried to frighten [Fox] by saying "You will get Pitt in again if you oppose"'. Grey doubted Sheridan's adhering to Fox, 25 Nov., and added, 'I cannot think the Doctor hitherto has put his virtue to a very severe test'. Sheridan was given credit for 'a sermon to us all on the subject of coalition' in the Morning Chronicle (20 Dec. 1803), by the Marquess of Buckingham, who thought it must please Addington. Yet on 21 Jan. 1804 Creevey had this to say:
When I repeat any of Sheridan's opinions, I do so with more doubt than in stating the opinions of any other persons, for he has acquired such tricks at Drury Lane, such skill in scene-shifting, that I am compelled by expereince to listen with distrust to him. For the last three months he has been damning Fox in the midst of his enemies, and in his drunken and unguarded moments has not spared him even in the circles of his most devoted admirers ... Now he apparently is much pacified and less inclined to volunteer his panegyric upon the Doctor; and if one may venture to guess at the motive in so perfect a performer in all mysterious arts, I should say he had been damnably galled by the coldness with which Fox's friends resented the abuse of the old fellow, and that the dimness and stupidity of Addington and his family parties had been a poor recompense for his treachery to Fox, and that he was creeping back as well as he is able into his old place.
As the Duchess of Devonshire commented apropos of Sheridan's 'jealousies and idle dreams ... I give him, as I always have done, the credit of believing he will not be entirely seduced away; but he will give constant cause through his vanity to be often suspected'. William Cobbett lampooned him as The Political Proteus.20
On 20 Feb. 1804 Sheridan was appointed by the Prince receiver-general of duchy of Cornwall, worth up to £1,400 a year: writing to thank him, he promised lifelong service. To Addington he gave assurances of the Prince's goodwill and reminded him how the Prince had fallen out with him (Sheridan) for taking Addington's side on the matter of the Prince's military employment the previous summer. He was amoung those who were reported as remonstrating with and threatening to desert Fox if he coalesced with Lord Grenville: obliged to swallow the merger, he found the scene at Fox's 'where were assembled the new coalition' a 'droll' one (27 Feb.). Grey was dismayed that Sheridan should be Fox's intermediary with the Prince (though Fox was never able to dispense with Sheridan, still less subsitutute Grey, in that capacity), because he 'has also had communications with Addington which I distrust very much, though Fox on his head also seems perfectly secure'. Absent from the House, apart from a few remarks on 2 Feb. and a defence of the volunteer consolidation bill, 8 Feb., Sheridan, though 'drunk and much below par', returned on 15 Mar. to furnish St. Vincent with a defence of his Admiralty administration: like the Prince's other friends, and unlike the 'Pitt bitten' Fox, he backed government against Pitt's motion for inquiry. On 19 Mar. he resumed the defence of the volunteer bill, but in the next fortnight concentrated on an attempt to secure the return of his son for Liskeard on petition. Having voted with the Foxites on the war in Ceylon, 14 Mar., and against the Irish militia offer, 13 Apr., he joined them silently on Fox's defence motion of 23 Apr., but did not divide for Pitt's question of 25 Apr. which brought down Addington. This diminished the point of Grey's allegation to Fox, 23 Mar., two days after Fox had rebuffed Sheridan's remonstrance against alliance with Pitt, that 'it happens whimiscally enough, that in making the fear of a junction bteween you and Pitt the pretence for his conduct he generally contrives to vote with him against you'.21
In his efforts to keep Pitt out, Sheridan had been trying to win the Prince over to Addington. Creevey thought (2 Apr.):
His insuperable vanity has suggested to him the brilliancy of being first with the Prince and governing his councils. He will, if he sees it practicable, try and is now trying, to alienate the Prince from Fox, and to reconcile him to the wrteched Addington. The effect of such a diabolical project is doubtless to be dreaded with a person so unsteady as the Prince ... His notion ... of Sheridan, I believe, has not much to do with his qualities as a statesman. Devonshire House, too, is his constant haunt, where everyone is against Sheridan ... Sheridan displays evident distrust of his own projects and is basely playing an undergame as Fox's friend, in the event of defeat to him and his Doctor. I never saw conduct more distinctly base than his.
Sheridan does not seem to have been very successful at his game, which culminated in offers from Addington of office for himself and Erskine, vetoed by the Prince. In March he and his wife descended on Fox and she tried to reconcile them. 'Fox said, with all his heart ... but begged they might avoid all political subjects', which Sheridan replied was impossible. After a private discussion, Fox commented to Adair, 'what alteration could any thing he can tell me make?' Grey who wished 'we could get rid of him and his intrigues for ever' and informed Whitbread 'I absolutely abhor him', concluded that Fox was 'too good natured and forbearing, and only encourages such men as Sheridan to behave ill to him'. Fox thought (6 Apr.) that Sheridan was 'very desirous of getting right again, but you will easily believe [he wrote to Grey] my dependence on him is not very firm. He is certainly out of humour with the Doctor.' Grey in reply, 10 Apr., stated that in opposition Sheridan's conduct had 'often been very prejudicial to our views', but 'in government ... I should tremble to risk my character with a man so little to be be depended on'. On 17 Apr. Fox conceded that Sheridan was 'as absurd as ever, to say no worse'. Lord Blenbervie anticipated Sheridan's 'entire separation' from Fox:
he has always been a doubtful and hollow friend, and Lady Glenbervie recollects that many years ago, her father [Lord North] speaking to her of political intimacy between those two, said to her one day 'Remember what I say to you. If you live a good many years, which I hope you will, I am satisified you will see that this friend of Fox's will trip up his heels'.22
Sheridan was at least firm in opposition to Pitt's second ministry. He was listed 'Prince' by them in May and September 1804. On 18 June, against Pitt's additional force bill, he alleged that 'all were curious to see what armed Minerva was to spring from the head of the political Jupiter', but that the result was 'puny and disappointing'. He 'made one of his brilliant appearances and came prepared for that purpose', for Mrs Sheridan sat 'under the gallery in a man's frock coat and trousers, under the care of Lord Lauderdale'. He followed Canning's tribute to Pitt with his own to Fox, 'the first, the strongest, and the only political attachment of my life'. He also praised Addington, in deference to whose 'regard for the rights and feelings of the community, and ... attachment to the constitution of the country', he had been prepared to differ from his friends. He endorsed Addington's forthright opposition to Pitt, contrasting it with the latter's pretended support of Addington, and reminded the zealous Pittites that six of the former ministers were retained. As for the Grenville opposition to Pitt, he rejoiced that it restored Fox 'to the friendship of those good and great men, from whom he ought never to have been separated' and deplored the fact that a broader basis for administration had not been found, referring to the fairmindedness of the 'illustrious personage' who from the start of the war wished to 'rally all parties round the standard of the country'. Addington was seen 'flirting with Mr Fox, Sheridan and Windham' after the debate and said to be 'not a little elated' by his speech, but Sheridan soon decided that 'Addington was further removed from Fox than ever and that finally Pitt and the Doctor would unite again'.
The danger that Putt would win over the Prince was Shridan's greatest bugbear; having reconciled the Prince and his brother the Duke of York in March 1804, he now sought to prevent Tierney's efforts to promote a reconciliation between the Prince and the King from having political consequences. He had grown jealous of Tierney's influence with 'his master' and Thomas Grenville reported them as 'each constantly abusing the other ... [though] neither can have much influence'; but as Tierney veered towards Pitt, it was a triumph for Sheridan when the Prince gave up the opportunity for reconciliation with his father in August, in a letter instigated by him. The King, who suspected his role, told Addington that Sheridan 'had always been right on trying occasions but he (the King) could not help looking to the private character of politicians and had rather such men were against him than for him'. An attempt by Pitt to conciliate the Prince in November also failed, though Sheridan was for a time 'in a terrible fidget'. For him it was 'a signal victory over his political rival [Tierney] for the favour of Carlton House'. Creevey reported Sheridan as dining with him 'in blue and buff. He is a perfect Foxite, thinks everything is right and abuses Tierney just as much as he did before he became so much his friend.' Yet on 4 Oct. when George Rose entertained Sheridan, who 'professed his unalterable attachment to Mr Fox', he also
spoke in terms of the highest commendation of Mr Pitt and declared solemnly that his unvarying advice to the Prince of Wlaes had been, never to think of forming a government without making Mr Pitt a part of it. He gave the strongest asurances, also, that he had nothing to do with the breaking off the intended interview between Mr Pitt and Mr Fox on the late change of government, which he attributed to Mr Grey, of whose temper and haughtiness he spoke in unqualified terms. He professed himself a determined enemy to a reform in Parliament, which he would oppose, he said, during the remainder of his life.
Sheridan assured his wife that no effort of his should be wanting to keep the Prince steady to Fox and his allies the Grenvilles, adding 'and yet it is droll to think what a favourite I am with them all' (15 Nov.). At the end of the month he arranged a dinner for the Prince, Fox and the Grenvilles, having set his heart 'on his not being the dupe of the knavery that has been entrapping him or of his own irresolution, to the ruin of his own character and consequence and to the great injury of our party'. But he failed in a bid to win over Addington for opposition before Pitt was reconciled with him.23
Sheridan had resumed his opposition line on Ireland in debate, assuring Fox that the situation was quite different from what it had been in 1804 when he backed martial law, though in May 1805 he urged Fox, at the Prince's instigation, not to press for Catholic relief. On 6 Mar. 1805 he had moved the repeal of 'Mr Pitt's parish defence bill', to show 'the failure of a boasted experiment'. After justifying his preference for militia and volunteer systems over 'a hired army', he claimed that Addington had coped much better and that Pitt 'now that he comes back with a diminished character ... enlarges his claims beyond even all his former pretensions'. He went out of his way to attack Melville at the Admiralty, asking whether his failure to organize expeditions on land was his qualification for taking over naval administration. Lady Stafford described this 'witty flourishing speech' as 'a composition of satire and invective against Mr Pitt, which gave Mr Pitt an opportunity of breaking forth into a flow of eloquence, pointed repartee and severe animadversions on Mr Sheridan, which had great effect on the House'. Pitt allegedly drank a bowl of Maderia before replying, whence the caricature of him 'uncooking old Sherry'; he described Sheridan's past support of Addington as 'insidious'. Sheridan, who had been supported by Whitbread and Windham but not, to his disappointment, by the Addingtonians, retorted that he had backed them 'because I considered their continuance in office as a security against the return to power of the right honourable gentleman opposite me, which ever appeared to me as the greatest national calamity'. Creevey reported that
Sheridan's speech and reply were both excellent. In that part of his reply when he fired upon Mr Pitt for his treachery to the Catholics, Pitt's eyes started with defiance from their sockets, and seemed to tell him if he advanced an atom further he would have his life. Sherry left him a little alone and tickled him about the greatness of his mind and the good temper of Melville; and then he turned upon him again with redoubled fury ... Never has it fallen to my lot to hear such words before in public or in private used by man to man.
Lord John Townshend, on the other hand, thought it
a most unequal performance ... very good in parts, but extremely disgressive and irrelevant ... And the conclusion of all, which seemed to prepare us for great things and a fine tirade ... seemed to fall very short, and disappointed everybody.
The motion was lost by 267 votes to 127; Sheridan was preparing another in January 1806, when Pitt's death prevented it. Although he said little on the censure of Melville, he voted for it, 8 Apr. 1805, was proposed by Whitbread for a select committee and supported the naval commissioners of inquiry, 25 Apr., seeking to prevent ministers from packing the committee, 29 and 30 Apr., and proposing a vote of thanks to the commissioners for their achievement 2 May. He also voted for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June, and a fortnight later was appointed one of the managers of the impeachment.
Sheridan differed from his Whig friends in supporting the Duke of Atholl's claim to compensation from government in the Isle of Man, 10 and 12 June. In the recess, not being invited to Stowe with the Prince and Fox, he went
to the Highlands to the Duke of Atholl's, to levy tribute of homage for his vote, Mr Fox says, and adds that Sheridan, though poor, would never be bribed by money to vote against his opinion, but by flattery might be bribed to do anything upon earth, and so fond is he of it, he will not even vote according to his conscience without securing being paid in this coin for it.
In Scotland he 'drank very hard', according to scandalmongers, who reversed the order of events, putting the drinking before his support for the duke's claim. Upon his son's hasty marriage soon afterwards, he entreated the Prince to transfer his duchy appointment to Tom. Although 'the Prince always showed by his manner that he thought Sheridan a man that any prince might be proud of as his friend', he remained unmoved, even when Sheridan resorted to crying bitterly. It ended in his making himself ill with drinking.24
In November 1805 Sheridan had been sent with the Prince's concurrence to Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) to invite him to join forces with opposition. Sidmouth would not then 'dabble', but on Pitt's death it was Sheridan who with the Prince's blessing (and Grey's contempt) undertook the negotiation to lure Sidmouth, with a friend, into the Grenville administration. It was also he, it seems, who promoted Lord Ellenborough's having a seat with Sidmouth in the cabinet when difficulties were made about Lord Buckinghamshire: he certainly made a 'most admirable' speech, as Ellenborough was told, ('drunken', said Canning) in defence of his appointment on 3 Mar. 1806. He himself was not in the cabinet: he succeeded Canning as treasurer of the navy, though there seems to have been some thought of making him president of the Board of Trade as well (given to Lord Auckland). He told Canning he might have been secretary at war, but had waived it for Fitzpatrick. Francis Horner thought Sheridan 'very little considered at present' and added about his exclusion from the cabinet:
This is a distressing necessity. His habits of daily intoxication are probably considered as unfitting him for trust. The little that has been confided to him, he has been running about to tell; and since Monday, he has been visiting Sidmouth. At a dinner at Lord Cowper's on Sunday last, where the Prince was, he got drunk as usual, and began to speak slightingly of Fox. From what grudge his behaviour proceeds I have not learned. The whole fact is one to investigate with candour, and with a full rememberance of Sheridan's great services in the worst times, to the principles of liberty.
He himself believed he was denied the cabinet 'lest he tell their secrets', which, he said 'would be a good reason if they had secrets to tell'.25
Sheridan was said to have refused Fox's propsoal of the duchy of Lancaster for life, which was objected to by his colleagues: he was more concerned for his son. Writing to the Irish viceroy, the Duke of Bedford, on 12 Feb., he recommended Tom to his patronage, 'having been thirty years a Whig politician, and six and twenty years in Parliament; and having expended full £20,000 of my own money to maintain my seat there and in all the course of political life struggling through great difficulties and risking the existence of the only property I had'. On 16 Feb. Fox applied to Lord Grenville on Tom's behalf; next day Sheridan wrote to Fox complaining that the seat at Steyning which the Duke of Norfolk had offered him, if he wished 'to avoid the expense of Stafford', or to 'any of Mr Fox's friends' on condition of a place for the sitting Member Lloyd, had been bestowed on Piggott, once Sheridan was guaranteed the payment of his expenses at Stafford,
not in consequence of your administration makinga provision for Lloyd ... but in consequence of Lord Moria giving up a place in his own immediate patronage which ... I have every reason to believe he would have given my son.
He claimed that he had vacated his seat 'without pretence or means to keep Stafford any longer at my beck' and alluded to what Thomas Grenville termed 'a new intrigue of Sheridan's, on behalf of the Prince, to have Tierney appointed to the Irish exchequer rather than Grenville's nominee, Sir John Newport. This plan failed and led, before Sheridan could calm him down, to a remonstrate from the Prince, 16 Feb. Sheridan subsequently wrote to Tierney assuming that they had made up their quarrel over Tierney's disappointment hopes, which enabled him to destroy 'a detailed remonstrance very painful for me to make' to the effect that he had done his best to promote Tierney's wishes 'under the Prince's auspices'. Sheridan went on (in his letter to Fox) to
unpack my mind at once and for all. I am alloted a place to which I think there is alloted a duty if a part is to be fairly supported, I mean of receiving and entertaining Members whom the cabinet cannot open their houses to—of course if I mean to serve you fairly out of my office I cannot save one guinea. I tell you frankly that I take that office without the slightest feeling of obligation to anyone living, perhaps I might say more—it is seventeen years since you professed to me that I should not be content to accept that alone ... In the King's last illness [February 1804] when perhaps I was deemed of more use than the present famed administration may estimate, I had a very distinct pledge from you that Tom should be taken care of ... how does it end? You turn me over with a note to Lord Grenville, which ends by a letter from him to ask a place from me for a friend of his, meaning no doubt to inform me that he had no patronage that could serve my son. In one word if nothing can be done for my son the Grenville administration are perfectly welcome to dispose of my office.
Fox was 'vexed' at Sheridan's complaint, but unable to do anything 'instantaneously' for Tom. The Duke of Bedford saw Fox about obtaining a half of Lord Lincoln's place for Tom and promised it to Sheridan, 26 Feb., but on 10 Mar. he had to report that 'political considerations essential to be attended to' stood in the way and proposed an Irish residential place instead. Sheridan, who on 5 Mar. had bestowed on Tom a quarter-share in his theatre, and reminded his friends how he had refused the registrarship of the vice-admiralty court at Malta and other offers under Addington, wished to insist at first on a non-residential place, requesting Fitzpatrick to prevail on Fox not to allow his son 'to be sacrificed to Ponsonby rapacity'. In April Tom accepted a residential place as muster master general, Sheridan boasting that 'no mark of Irish favour conferred on me or any of my family would be unpopular in Ireland'. His own unopposed re-election at Stafford was paid for by the Prince, who thus relieved Fox of his promise that government should pay. Thomas Grenville was of the opinion that Sheridan took too much interest in promoting nominees for vacant seats out of 'his shop' at this time and he was also said to be assisting Moria in a bid to oust the electoral influence of Melville in Scotland. Meanwhile, when he appeared before the Bank directors to open his navy office account, 'the joke is that they all ran out of the room carrying away their books and papers etc.'.26
Sheridan had not dealt with departmental business since 1783, but showed that he could still apply himself to it. He also provided the necessary hospitality, though seldom soberly, at Somerset House, using theatrical props to disguise his dwindling credit. While he had little to say in the House on his own department, he intervened on Indian affairs against James Paull who attempted to censure on Wellesley which Sheridan had repeatedly shelved. He also defended the repeal of Pitt's Additional Force Act. This he thought Pitt, to whom he now paid tribute, would himself have repealed had he lived. He was not happy, he admitted, 11 July, with the cabinet's defence measures, though he 'did not think it becoming ... to oppose them': proposing an amendment to the vote of thanks to the volunteers that day he said 'he was sure that cabinet would never look to him for the subserviency of sacrificing that independence of opinion to any consideration of office, at least if ever they should so expect, they would be disappointed'. Howick (formerly Grey) secured the defeat of this amendment. Creevey thought Sheridan's behaviour 'infamous': it was a motion 'which, if the Addingtonians had supported, would have left us in the minority ... Sherry was left to the contempt from all sides he so justly deserved.'27
Dismayed by Fox's fatal illness, Sheridan claimed to his wife, who was connected with Howick, that he sought, without telling Howick, to reconcile him and the Prince, as 'there has been always a distance not to say dislike' between them: the same applied to himself and Howick. Lady Holland reported him as telling her husband that many of Fox's friends wished him to succeed to the Whig leadership. He spoke of Howick's unpopularity and was dismissive of the claims of Lord Henry Petty*; he also wished to revive Lord Holland's friendship for Canning and get him and Spencer Perceval into office. Horner thought, 11 Sept., when the Prince came to town to visit the dying Fox, that Sheridan was probably 'waiting to see him in the first instance; he will intrigue against any arrangement, of which he is not the principal, and especially against Lord Howick, on whom the lead of the House of Commons must [devolve]'. He was reported as 'very low' on Fox's account and as saying that 'if Mr Fox dies nobody must expect to see him for a month'. Fox was reluctant to have him at his bedside, but Sheridan took advantage of this, Fox's last indulgence to him, to tell a tale of Fox's dying confidence to him that he was his dearest friend. Before Fox was dead, he made known his notion of succeeding him as Member of Westminster, which was interpreted as a symbolic bid for Fox's mantle. Lord Holland recalled that he
had always entertained a strong but secret ambition to represent a populous place ... He had seen with emotions of envy the uniform popularity of Mr Fox in Westminster. During the secession he had manoeuvred to confirm and even to entrap his friend into a resolution of quitting Parliament and laid a plot for succeeding him, and Mr Fox was not averse to promote it, but his adherents detected and would not permit it. On his death, however, Mr Sheridan stood forward, but without success.
This fruitless attempt was due to 'a double misapprehension, by which, while Sheridan on one side was led to believe that the ministers would favour his pretensions, the ministers on the other were induced to think that he had given up all intentions of being a candidate'. Lord Grenville, who had agreed to Lord Percy's candidature in this belief, wrote ironically to Sidmouth, 15 Sept., 'we are in a strange state with our treasurer of the navy opposing us in Parliament and creating an opposition to us in Westminster'. The Prince had been apprised of Sheridan's project in his letter to Col. McMahon after Fox's death, written 'under the most violent and frightful agitation, beginning by lamentaion over his old friend but soon going to his own ambitious projects, and (as he said) to his "Revenge" '. Mrs Creevey, reporting this, 15 Sept., added:
None of the present party wish to quarrel with him, yet perhaps they may all think ... that with his present ambitious hostility he might make the being Member for Westminster a most troublesome engine for mischief.
Creevey was convinced Sheridan was
mad from what I have lately seen, from liquor and passion, and he has worked himself up to such a frenzy that he really believes (now Fox is gone) or at least professes to believe that he can turn out all the government and rule the country himself.
Our leading men Lord Howick, Fitzpatrick, etc. are so mad with him that they are for cutting at once and turning him out of office. This however would be very rash and I shall do all I can to make them think so.
Moira induced Sheridan to stand down and the Prince assured Lord Grenville that he would exercise all his influence on Sheridan 'to preserve everything quiet at a moment like the present'. Sheridan was prepared to blame Richard Wilson II* for the fiasco, understanding from him that Grenville would not pledge government to any other candidate until his intentions had been asked, for which reason he had not applied directly to government for support. He had remonstrated with Howick, 16 Sept., for reporting him as having given up pretensions without toubling to ascertain it from him. In this he had the sympathy of Lord Holland, who was critical of Howick's neglecting to consult others; but the fact was that Howick had every reason to be committed to the support of Percy. Sheridan exonerated Grenville from any blame, but to the annoyance of Percy's friends, who reproached Sheridan for exposing 'the weakness and want of unanimity in the administration' and who interpreted Sheridan's withdrawal as a ploy to avoid election expenses, he insisted on attending a meeting organized by the Westminster managers on 18 Sept. to test his sincerity. There he appended the declaration of his temporary withdrawal to a grandiose éloge funèbre of Fox. He then proceeded to organize Fox's funeral. Lord Holland thought, 22 Sept.,
Sheridan has been behaving strangely, and will I fear do much mischief, but considering his connexions, talents and appearance of steadiness to the mob and public I fear there is too much disposition to set him at defiance and too great a desire to get rid of him altogether than is either prudent or perhaps right.
Mrs Creevey thought Sheridan felt rather ashamed of the incident and wished to attribute as much as possible 'to drunkenness and the nervousness occasioned by it': to the same cause might be attributed his boast that he could have won 'against Lord Percy and all the ministers put together'.
Sheridan's exaggerated notion of his popularity (he saw himself as being 'forced' to stand for Westminster) was severely tested when at the dissolution a month later he sought and obtained government support for his candidature for the constituency, his expenses to be raised by subscription. Percy's father refused to allow him to stand with Sheridan, who was assaulted and whose character and debts were mercilessly lampooned during the election, in which his platform was 'the principles of Fox', the maintenance of which had become 'a sacred duty' and 'a solemn trust'. He left Stafford to his son, who had to answer 'the charges of neglect and desertion which had been industriously circulated against his father'. Things went so badly for Sheridan that he was obliged to secure, through Lord Holland, a coalition with Sir Samuel Hood to keep out James Paull. Fitzwilliam commented: 'Sheridan ... sits not upon his own popularity but through government support. It is a bitter pill for him to swallow, but I hope the medicine will not be quite thrown away'. He had become a splendid ruin: splendid because 'if the talents he has displayed in preserving considerable importance through a career of profligacy which would have overset any other man had been prudently applied to politics he must have been at the head of affairs'; but ruined by the contempt of 'the Fox party, who had never forgiven him for not seceding from the House of Commons when they did, or for what he did at the time of the navy mutiny to support the administration by his speeches in the House of Commons'; and of the mob, who had now turned against him. In his attack on Sheridan in the Political Register, 22 Nov. 1806, Cobbett mocked him for his playful attack on Paull's low social origins with the retort 'Whence sprang the Sheridans? From a play-actor.'28
The Whig leaders were thenceforward determined to 'keep a watchful eye on Sheridan': William Adam was asked to help in 'keeping him steady' by the Duke of Bedford, who toyed with the idea of returning Tom Sheridan, defeated at Stafford, for Camelford, as 'a means of securing a little steadiness in the father'. In Parliament he successfully combated Paull's petition against his return. Canning, thinking Sheridan must be guilty of irregularities, wrote, 'if [Sheridan] loses his seat he will infallibly be in King's Bench the next day—lose his office of course—and then there will be an end of him'. He had to answer an accusation of time-serving when Lord Folkestone took up, on Paull's behalf, the censure of Wellesley's conduct in India. He still refused to admit that he had lost interest in the subject, 26 Jan., 26 Feb. 1807. He supported, as he had always done unobtrusively, the abolition of the slave trade, 16 Mar., and next day approved Lord Percy's motion for the emancipation of slaves. The fall of the ministry produced his celebrated bon mot 'were there ever such an ingenious set as our blessed leaders! I have heard of people running their heads against a brick wall before, but I never heard of any other people building a wall on purpose.' His son might, conditionally, have held on to his place, but Sheridan made him give it up and he rebuked the new chancellor of the Exchequer, Perceval, for being prepared to accept the duchy of Lancaster (£2,000 p.a) for life, which he had himself refused in 1806; he had always been opposed to sinecures. Both in the House, 25 Mar., and in the hustings when, after at first declining, 29 Apr., he again contested Westminster, he 'supported the honour of the last adminstration' and 'put down the cry of "No Popery" '.
Sheridan was defeated and his petition unavailing, so he fell back on Ilchester, which the Prince had purchased from Sir William Manners* for Tom, who was again thwarted at Stafford. Sheridan toyed with an invitation to contest county Wexford, but he was said to have 'as little chance at Wexford as at Westminster'. He was indeed defeated there in absentia. Bragge Bathurst commented to Sidmouth, 26 May, 'Sheridan I have no sort of pity for. His ridiculous vanity in fancying he could fill the space which Fox had left empty, and that he could carry Westminster by his own popularity, and after all, his readiness to follow at the heels of Sir Francis Burdett, seem rightly punished.' Writing to the Prince, 7 Mar. 1808, Sheridan took the view that he owed his seat to him, but was permitted to pursue an independent line, by which he hoped to serve him better: he was about to be reappointed receiver-general of the duchy, which post he had resigned a year before on the return from India of General Gerald Lake*, who had the promise of it. Lake died within the year, after accusing Sheridan of misapplying the duchy income, and further disobliging him by replacing him at a time when he was 'low in the world', and supplanting him in the Prince's favour.29
Sheridan was a keen critic of the Irish insurrection bill, 9 July 1807, and said 'it was no answer to him that the measure had been prepared by his friends': on 27 July he washed his hands of it and divided the House. On 15 July he explained that he had not attended or spoken on the Catholic question while in office because of his unbounded confidence in his friends, but on 1 Aug. Lady Bessborough reported that her husband and Sheridan were 'the only two of our friends against the Irish insurrection bill'. On 7 Aug. he 'was drunk but spoke well' against the Irish arms bill. On 13 Aug. he moved for an inquiry into the state of Ireland next session, referring to the two bills just passed as suspending the Irish constitution when the country was loyal and tranquil, if oppressed. Catholic relief was not the answer: the peasantry must be conciliated. As to their reputation for idleness, he pointed out that the Irish 'do all the hard work of this metropolis' and warned that, if disaffected, they would become a prey to Buonaparte. The motion, described by Palmerston as 'not quite as reasonable ... as was expected', was defeated by 76 votes to 33.
In November 1807 Howick succeeded to his father's peerage. Sheridan, who had commended his debut as Whig leader but blamed him for Tom's loss of Stafford in May 1807, was suspected of being hopeful. Lady Bessborough wrote, 18 Nov.:
It has always been his ambition to lead the Op., and with talents and eloquence to entitle him to anything had he chose it, he has so degraded his mind and character that there is scarce any one sunk so low as to lool up to Sheridan as his chief.
He had never had a personal following, except perhaps for his boon companions among the theatrical Whigs like Joseph Richardson* and Edward Morris*. Earl Grey (as he now was) wrote to Lord Holland, 6 Dec., 'Sheridan I suppose nobdy thinks of'. That Sheridan was working up his pretensions was suggested by an episode on 18 Nov., when Lady Harriet Cavendish reported that he
got into Devonshire House ... nobody knows how ... He says he never despaired of his country til now, that Ireland in a state of frightful confusion, that rebellion is fermenting in every corner of it, and only waiting for the arrival of the French there, which arrival he seems to think pracitcable and will be immediate, to burst forth and end in our ruin and destruction.
Lord Grenville thought Sheridan had 'claims to be considered'; Grey hoped Sheridan would accept Ponsonby as leader, but feared he would not be able to restrain himself from making mischief; Tierney, who did not expect Sheridan to 'pretend to leader', informed Whitbread, 22 Dec.:
I hear that he is to be uncommonly active and to perform some extrordinary feats in the next session. He of course will not approve of George Ponsonby and I rather believe has so expressed himself, but this I cannot answer for. If he gives the notice you speak of the first day without any concert with others or previous consideration, he may obtain a little popularity but the country can derive no benefit, and it will be fortunate if the consequences are not full of mischief.
This referred to a proposed motion on Ireland; Tierney believed it would 'save a world of trouble afterwards for it will probably render it impossible, with the least hope of success, to bring forward anything relative to Ireland for the remainder of the session. One fine speech will thus do poor Pat's business effectively.'30
At the opening session, 21 Jan. 1808, Sheridan promised to keep his pledge to Ireland, in 'a drunken speech ... towards morning'; it seems that he coveted Henry Grattan's role. But after a week of Whitbread's company he was diverted to the bombardment of Copenhagen, for which he wished to see ministers impeached, and to the campaign for peace. Grey wrote, 22 Jan., 'Sheridan made a speech, drunk at the end of the debate, in which amongst much absurdity there were some good things, and which seems in general to be praised'. Perceval, whom he belaboured, thought his speech 'very violent'. On 25 Feb. he moved unsuccessfully for information on the Copenhagen expedition, and on 29 Feb. supported Whitbread's bid to promote peace (though he had disagreed with Whitbread on this subject in January 1807, and in January 1809 Whitbread was told he was 'as foolishly warlike as when he helped to break the peace of Amiens'). He failed to secure the implementation of the report on Coldbath Fields prison which Burdett and he had instigated, 17 Mar. 1808. When on 1 June, after a silent vote on 15 Mar., he rose to discharge his promise to support Turton's motion on the Carnatic question, he prevaricated, though he denied that he wished to 'blink' the question and conceded that Wellesley suffered from 'mischievous ambition'. On 10 June June he gave notice of and, depsite discouragement on both sides, persisted in a motion for an address to assist Spain in her rebellion against Buonaparte and 'strike a bold stroke for the rescue of the world'. It got nowhere, 15 June. Whitbread informed Grey next day:
you will see by the papers that Sheridan, in concert with Canning, and against the wish and advice of all his friends, has been making a bother about Spain. He did all he could to create a cry for himself as distinguished from all of us, but he was so exceedingly drunk he could hardly articulate. A more disgraceful exhibition was seldom if ever witnessed, but it served to make mischief.
Wilberforce reported that Sheridan
came down to the House, but the opportunity being delayed, he going upstairs got so drunk as to make himself manifestly and disgustingly besotted: yet he seemed to remember a fair speech, for the topics were good: only he was like a man catching through a thick medium at the objects before him. Alas, a most humiliating spectacle; yet the papers state him to have a brilliant speech etc. So true is what Cobbett said of his friendship to the editors and reporters.
On 16 June, supporting Irish tithe commutation, Sheridan explained that he had postponed his promised Irish motion on his friends' advice until the Catholic petition was presented. He voted for that silently, 25 May. On 17 June after having to be jogged by Romilly, he came out in the open against the Marquess Wellesley, denouncing ('but not at any length') 'the tyrannous dethronement' of the young nawab of the Carnatic. Lord Holland thought Sheridan cut 'a most dismal figure in every way on his Spanish motion, flattering and courting his enemies, offending and attacking his friends, and what is really melancholy after what we have known him, without wit, eloquence or effect', and added that, 'I fear his Carnatic speech, though long studied, was not sufficient to redeem him'. Grey, in a letter to Lady Holland, agreed: 'as to Sheridan's conduct in a party view, that is past praying for: and in trusth it is of no consequence'. On 2 July Sheridan secured an inquiry into Irish prisons, with particular reference to political prisoners. But he was in hot water: on 23 July he had to write to the Prince to deny the allegation that he had deserted him 'privately and politically'. Referring to the Carnatic question on which he had asked to see the Prince before giving his silent vote with the minority on 15 Mar. (the only one of the Prince's friends to do so), he stated that he had 'long before been assured, though falsely I am convinced, that your Royal Highness had promised to make a point that I should neither speak nor vote upon Lord Wellesley's case', and added that his knowledge of the subject and of the 'delicate situation' in which the Prince stood in respect of the Catholic question, encouraged 'the continuance of that reserve which my original error had commenced'. Owing to his 'nervous procrastinating nature' he had shirked an explanation to the Prince, but he wished to 'fly from the risk of even a cold look from the quarter to which I owe so much, and by whom to be esteemed is the glory and consolation of my private and public life'. He could not renounce 'the unpurchasable consistency and sincerity' of his political principles to be 'a professing sycophant to your station and power', and rather than be 'on half terms' with the Prince would resign his duchy post and refuse compensation. To make matters worse, he had for some months been living at his friend Peter Moore's house to prevent his goods being seized for debt. He was absent, 'on account of indisposition', from the meeting to endorse Ponsonby's leadership, 18 Jan. 1809.31
Sheridan's affairs were not improved by the destruction of fire of Drury Lane Theatre, only one-eighth insured, on 24 Feb. 1809. He was in the House at the time preparing to reply to Canning and refused adjournment: 'whatever might be the extent of the individual calamity, he did not consider it of a nature worthy to interrupt their proceedings on so great a national question [the campaign in Spain]'. Next day Tierney found him 'in a sort of stupid despair', though that morning at 3 a.m. at the Piazza Coffee House, he had informed nine other Members:
There were three things which alone could sensibly affect a mind properly constituted. The first was the loss of a woman beloved; the second bodily pain; the third self-reproach. The first he had suffered and felt; the second he had been happily free from, and laying his hand on his breast he said self reproach he had none, having never injured any man.
Sheridan took little part in the discussion of the Duke of York's misconduct of army patronage, beyond cautioning Wardle that he had lent himself to a conspiracy. On the pretext that a 'hurt foot' prevented his coming to the duke's defence he disappeared from the House: according to one report he returned once in May, 'to assure them that he was not dead, but nobody would believe him'. His friends rallied to his relief and, after negotiating with Whitbread a committee to rebuild, he advertised on 20 Oct., 'a new grand imperial incombustible theatre'. Out of the House he found time for reconciliation with the Prince and helped to draft his letter to the King of 30 Sept., advocating a new administration. He himself was reported to wish that Lords Grenville and Grey would join government to help 'put down the Jacobins', who were seducing the party's 'best young men'. Lord Holland believed that he was giving the Prince 'good advice, and is just now acting very well', but was attentive to Canning (then out of office) and that he might like the credit for a junction. The Grenvilles disapproved of these overtures as 'the flirtation between Canning and Sheridan' had 'a tendency to strengthen that part of the opposition which is the least attached to Lord Grenville'; Grey also disapproved; even so, the ministrerialists expected Canning to desert them, alleging 'that the bargain was settled by Lords Holland and Granville Leveson and Sheridan'.32
Sheridan was absent from the party meeting of 22 Jan. 1810 at which Ponsonby's leadership was endorsed, but provided entertainment elsewhere, according to Lady Bessborough,
with his account of the struggles for pre-eminence which threatened to subdivide the subdivisions of op[position] till they become like atoms known to exist, but too numerous to count—and too small to be felt; but they were saved from dissolution, and harmony restor'd, by re-electing King Log [Ponsonby], for whom he, Sheridan, has the highest respect and regard; hopes he may now long enjoy that envied post which secures great trouble without honour, and with the negative of profit ... Sheridan however is out of favour. He talked much of the Pope [Canning] and swore he would defend him through thick and thin, and thought the Prince wonderfully come round to him ... Sheridan ended with saying if anything could keep ministers in it was the quarrels of op[position], who were more inveterate against each other than against the common enemy.
Canning, though he found Sheridan 'greatly altered', paid tribute to his 'excellent temper' and strength of mind; it took Thomas Stepney to confront him with 'the fact ... that all the world say that your faculties are quite going and that you are almost sunk into a mere driveller'. He appeared to vote against the address, 23 Jan. 1810, and for inquiry into the Scheldt expediton, 26 Jan. After further absence 'on private business', he pursued one of his favorite notions that strangers should not be excluded from the gallery of the House and moved for a committee of privileges to prove that there was no standing order to authorize it, 6 Feb. Windham taunted him with being 'a general patron of the London press' and the motion was lost by 166 votes to 80. Having championed the liberty of the press in a speech which Brougham thought 'worth the whole of the Begum charge', he followed it up with a petition to permit journalists to be called to the bar, which led to a bitter clash with Windham on 23 Mar. He favoured the release of the radical John Gale Jones from prison on Burdett's motion, 12 Mar., and on 28 Mar. moved the referral of Burdett's breach of privilege to a committee, so as to permit debate on the Scheldt expedition, on which he voted against ministers throughout. On 5 Apr. he opposed Burdett's committal to the Tower, saying 'he would not consent to hurt a hair of Sir Francis Burdett's head'. He voted for parliamentary reform, 21 May, and was counted among the Friends of Constitutional Reform subsequently. During this session he foiled efforts to upset the Drury Lane theatre monopoly, but gave up an intended motion on Spain. He caused a rumpus at Oxford when he declined an honorary doctorate in the face if a non placet: the undergraduates demonstrated in his favour. A windfall from the duchy revenue enabled him for 'a few months' to live comfortably. He was 'full of his fun', travelling about 'in a large job coach upon which he would have his family arms painted', but he soon spent it all: the duchy revenue was often below par and did not exceed £1,000 p.a. until 1811. He admitted to his needy wife that he neglected 'the smaller affairs of the world' and that his security depended on a seat in Parliament (20 Apr. 1810).33
Sheridan re-emerged during the Regency crisis, which revived memories of his role in 1788. On 1 Nov. 1810 he seconded Perceval's motion for an adjournment during the King's illness and on 15 Nov. supported its extension. Of these speeches Lord Holland remarked that he thought Sheridan encouraged Tierney to absent himself, to 'have the thing to himself', while Lord Buckingham commented, 'What a pity it is that such a man as Sheridan should not give the public the full benefit of his extraordinary talents'. Hatsell, clerk of the House, thought Sheridan had 'on former occasions, shown more sense and public spirit than some of his coadjutors ... I suspect he has done so on the present conjuncture.' Friends of government found the speech 'very useful' and Sheridan's divergence from 'Burdett and co.' was noted and the blessing of Carlton House suspected: Sheridan had certainly asked for this (2 Nov.) and, after being snubbed for a while subsequently received it. He was quoted as saying, 'if the Prince will follow his advice he will render him the most popular Prince that ever ascended the throne', and professed to act 'without consulting with any of the party' (23 Nov.). He did not vote after the debate of 29 Nov., whereupon Dr Parr wrote to Lord Holland, 'I have often observed, that the matchless sagacity of Mr Sheridan is occasionally perverted by a propensity for display, or an affectation of singularity, or a lust of thwarting. Hence I suppose, he did not vote in the second debate.' Lord Grenville, noting the absence of the Prince's friends from this division, 'even' of Sheridan, believed that he 'thought it would not be decorous (he studies decorum) for him as one of the Prince's servants to vote in such a question'. Lord Bulkeley, assuming that Sheridan took his lead from Carlton House, predicted: 'we shall see Perceval and Sheridan hand in glove, which will be a curious sight'. Writing to the Prince, 9 Dec., Sheridan took credit for hsi difference from his friends. On 13 Dec. he was appointed to the committee to examine the royal doctors. On 17 Dec. however, in unison with Ponsonby and Adam, he proposed an address to the Regent on the precedent of the Irish parliament's in 1788, as the best way out of the crisis caused by the King's illness. Of this Brougham wrote to Grey, 'Sheridan said pretty expressly (though in parenthesis) that he only spoke for himself. It seems odd however that he should have spoke at all if he did not expect the Prince to stir, for in the former debate [29 Nov.] he said nothing.' The Prince did stir: he made a solemn protest against the Regency restrictions, 19 Dec., in reply to Perceval's proposals.34
On 2 Jan. 1811 Sheridan himself opposed the restrictions in debate, drawing parallels with the crisis of 1788, but deprecating the animosity and factious spirit that had then prevailed: he wished the Regent to have 'full majesty'. Brougham wrote to Grey the next day, 'Don't believe a word of what the newspapers say of Sheridan's speech—it was a complete failure—he is quite done and has nothing left but his mischief'; while Ryder informed the Duke of Richmond that 'the best of his speech the other night was turning Lord Grenville's inconsistency and the unpopularity of the Talents into ridicle'. On 11 Jan. after a clash with perceval in debate, Sheridan wrote to the Prince that he intended to oppose proceeding by commission under the great seal, which the premier proposed, and had meant to prevent an adjournment wished for by Perceval, but 'those near me thought it best not'. On 14 Jan. he advocated an address rather than a commission, reminding Perceval, however, that he (Sheridan) was the Prince's servant, not his mouthpiece. The Speaker, who termed this a 'speech of spash', noted 'the rest of the opposition not opening their lips, ... being already extremely dissatisfied with Sheridan'; and, to show his own opinion of him, added on 23 Jan. that the Prince had invited Sheridan and 'all his parliamentary friends' to dinner on Sunday, but that Sheridan told him he would give precedence to the Speaker's dinner on that day 'as Mr Fox had decided long ago that the Prince's commands dissolved all other engagements except the Speaker's parliamentary dinners'. He nevertheless begged leave to be excused next day: 'he dined with the Prince that day' He was surprised not to be invited next time, to which the Speaker retorted that Sheridan 'having so often either declined or not come after he had accepted, I was led to suppose the sort of dinner was disagreeable to him'.
The dissatisfaction of Lords Grey and Grenville with Sheridan gave rise to a showdown between them. They had been invited by the Prince to draft his reply to the two Houses in their offer of the Regency, as a prelude to Grey's and Grenville's inclusion in a new administration. To quote Lady Holland:
Sheridan who had thrust himself into the whole transaction protested against their responsibilty, alleging that the Prince was not himself in a condition to invest persons with responsibility, that he had drawn a paper, and Lord Moria had done the same. After Lord Grey went away, such a scene of duplicity and jealousy was exhibited by Sheridan beyond all belief or description ... By Adam's report, Sheridan's description of what had passed here was a most gross misrepresentation, and a malicious interpretation of every word uttered. They all parted in wrath, the Prince determining to keep what Sheridan made him believe was his own, whereas in fact it was Sheridan's. This is one of his artifices by which he ensnares the Prince, first suggesting ideas and words, which he dextrously contrives to make the Prince believe are his own. (He avowed this to us some months ago.) Some of Sheridan's phrases were very bad. The Prince was to say in a taunting manner that he hoped the authority he was to be invested with would be as brief as it was restricted, showing a silly soreness towards the Parliament.
Grenville and Grey proceeded to draw up a protest to the Prince, 'glancing at secret advisers' (that is, condemning Sheridan), 11 Jan. 1811. Sheridan wrote to Lord Holland, 15 Jan., protesting against this when the Prince showed it to him. Holland, who conceded that, during the Regency debates, Sheridan had been 'neither brilliant in his oratory nor cordial or zealous in his conduct' and that his composition of the Prince's reply 'expressed strongly enough, but not very happily either in thought or in language, the Prince's disapprobation of the late proceedings', could see nevertheless that he had motive enough for revenge: Grenville and Grey should have paid attention to him when the Prince neglected him, but had shown 'a repugnance to consult or to court him, and possibly a disinclination to serve him, which he was too keen-sighted not to perceive and too vain not to resent'. The Grenvillites suspected that Sheridan was, through Sidmouth, in league with Perceval. Grey was equally suspicious, but informed Grenville, 14 Jan., that in the draft of a covering letter of theirs to Lord Moria, 'I have put in a parenthesis on account of my old connection with Sheridan, and have made a slight alteration in the end'. Sheridan, in his apologia to Holland, stated that he knew his declining vote on 29 Nov. had given offence to the party, but pointed out that the leaders had not informed him of their views: 'my secession was entirely my own act; and not only unauthorized but perhaps unexpected by the Prince'. He denied that he had advised, though he certainly approved, the Prince's delay in not sending for Grey and Grenville until the Regency was established, out of respect for public opinion. He denied that he knew beforehand that the two lords had been invited to draft the Prince's reply to Parliament for him; when he learnt of it, he wished his own to be burnt, but the Prince objected to their effort, which contained 'the Prince's own marginal objections', as Grey had seen to himself, and took up his. Moreover, the Prince had made alterations in his to please the two lords, but could not go as far as they wished: the suspicion that Sheridan was 'an interested contriver of a double government', or 'an apostate from all my former principles' was unwarranted. The Prince had seen this letter of Sheridan's: it then went the rounds. William Adam, in his memorandum of the transaction, while confirming the facts stated by Sheridan, threw doubt in his motives, alleging for instance that Sheridan had advised him in the interests of prudence not to show Grey the Prince's 'marginal notes of disapprobation'; but when Adam followed this advice and was stating the Prince's objections from memory, Sheridan interrupted and told Grey that Adam had in his pocket a copy of the two lords' draft reply with the Prince's observations on it 'all in the Prince's writing, thus forcing me to produce what he had before enjoined me to withhold'. Adam further noted that Sheridan admitted his own draft of the reply was intended 'to sail as near the wind as possible' and agreed at first to the omission of a paragraph which Adam, in accordance with Lord Holland's suggestion, represented to him as being offensive; but when the Prince came in he said, 'Adam, Sir, has been proposing an alteration by leaving out the last paragraph but one, the paragraph your Royal Highness likes so much, as it will be satisfactory to Lord Grey and Lord Grenville'. The Prince nevertheless agreed to leave it out.
Yet Sheridan was reported as being disappointed at the Prince's resolution not to dismiss the existing government. Lord Hutchinson assured Creevey that 'never man had behaved better than Sheridan'. In any case he was dismissed by Carlton House at the end of January 1811 and out of favour for a time. Disappointed in his 'high opinion of his powers of management', he believed Grey and Grenville had poisoned the Prince's mind against him: he was not seeking office (Grey reported the Prince as wanting Sheridan to be Irish secretary, which he thought would be 'sending a man with a lighted torch into a magazine of gunpowder': he hoped Sheridan, who did not aspire to the cabinet, would stick to the navy office). On 5 Feb. 1811 Sheridan formally reproached the Prince for his decision, in view of the King's probable recovery, to retain present ministers, though he now regarded it as his duty to defend it. This strengthened the belief of his denigrators that he had connived at it. To his wife he wrote, 'never will I have anything to do with double advice', but he admitted that he found it mortifying to 'promote the views of persons who have treated me as they have done, and are entitled to no service from me ... confidently expecting every co-operation and common cause from me. But no matter.' To his son Tom he wrote, 'By [the Prince] I must and shall stand—doing everything I can honourably by party—but I will not sacrifice myself or you—to those who only court me or profess to deal fairly by me when they find they want me'.35
Save to rebuff another attack on the Drury Lane Theatre monopoly in the spring of 1811, to second the vote of thanks to Sir Thomas Graham, expressing his approbation of the Peninsular war, and to champion Irish political prisoners, Sheridan was inconspicuous in the House that session, not least as a member of the bullion committee. On 19 July, however, he clashed with Tierney who was said to have given him 'a severe licking', which Sheridan did not like and 'complains bitterly of', on the gold coin bill, which all the Prince's friends supported. Tierney reported to Grey, 'I gave it him soundly, though I dare say no newspaper will make a fair report of anything against so illustrious a champion of the liberty of the press'. By giving the appearance of serving both the Prince and the Whig party, Sheridan pleased neither. The Prince approved his concurrence in the reappointment of the Duke of York as commander-in-chief of the army, which he anticipated by a 'fulsome panegyric' on the duke, only to learn from Sheridan of his 'doubts respecting the timing of this act of magnanimity and justice ... [which] proceeded from a timidity founded however on no unworthy motive'. Moreover, after he had voted in favour of the claims of John Palmer* in May, Tierney reported, there was 'open war between Lord Yarmouth and Sheridan, his lordship having expressed himself very strongly to Sheridan on the impropriety of his voting with us, which he was pleased to call encouraging the mob to break the windows of Carlton House'. On 13 May he voted for the reception of the Catholic petition. But the Whigs were still not satisfied: Earl Temple complained of Sheridan's 'baseness' in an unorthodox view of the Spanish war which he expounded in debate: 'it is quite impossible', he wrote to Lord Grenville, 'to dream even of acting in concert again, until Sheridan is given to understand that he will be disavowed and answered upon any future occasion of the same nature, like any other renegrade'.36
During the summer of 1811 Sheridan, whose 'great amibition was to be thought at the bottom of everything', gave himself 'the air of knowing many secrets', thought Lord Holland, 'which is a sure sign of his suspecting something being on foot without his being admitted to the secret'. Creevey thought Sheridan might be inclined in a new administration that excluded the Whig leaders and that he was 'very uneasy about it; from Sheridan's drunken abuse of Lord Yarmouth, he perceived that Sheridan feared Yarmouth's 'boat was the best of the two'. He had in fact lost ground at Carlton House and Grey reported him (1 Sept.) as 'expressing so much discontent at the Prince's conduct, as to talk of resigning his place and his seat in Parliament'. Of this threat he commented: 'it is certain he would not have uttered it, if he had seen any prospect of obtaining a seat in the cabinet'. Grey doubted whether Sheridan was responsible for a reapprochement between the Prince and Canning to promote a new administration. In October, informing the Prince that the committee for rebuilding the theatre had bought him out (he got £24,000 and his son Tom half as much) freeing him from debt, Sheridan added that he now looked forward to devoting himself entirely to the Prince's service. In the following month, however, he accepted an invitation to return to Stafford at the dissolution, referring to his 'ardent wish to support the Catholic claims in an independent seat', as 'the sole political object now near my heart, and that which I wish resolutely to support both in the House of Commons and with whatever humble influence I may possess with the Prince Regent'. He explained to a Stafford friend that he was sure of his return for Ilchester and even of the second seat for Tom, but he wished 'to stand the master of my own motions in the ensuing session of Parliament especially on the question of the Catholic claims'. He was confident that his 'own means' and the assistance he could receive 'if necessary from another quarter' would enable him to 'meet any opposition'.37
In the House Sheridan defended the Prince's financial claims and Col. McMahon's sinecure place, 16 and 28 Jan. 1812, or as he explained on 23 Feb., thought the place, not the person blameworthy: but on 4 Feb. he supported Morpeth's motion on Ireland, safeguarding himself by stating that the Catholic claims were only part of the question and writing to his wife beforehand:
I have resisted every effort to induce me not to vote for the Catholic question today—under the shabby pretence that it was premature and ill-timed, a ground which some real friends to the Catholic cause mean to take to make court to the Regent ... It has been a toss up whether I should not have taken the Chiltern Hundreds and been out of Parliament this day—but I shall continue to consult nothing as a public man but my own self-esteem.
Tierney reported that Sheridan intended to secede and 'vote no more, except for the Catholics'. This followed the quandary he was in over McMahon's sinecure in which, to quote Robert Ward, a ministerialist, he 'was against us, but voted for us'. By one account he was locked out of the division, though he assured McMahon he voted for his place, but did not speak. On the orders in council he abstained with the Prince's friends, though he had previously been a critic of the orders. His wish to secede was reinforced by the Prince's disapproval of his 'declining to continue to be brought in [to Parliament] by him', and the Prince's retaining ministers 'arrayed against the Catholic claims', for which reason 'they cannot have a vote in their support for me, and therefore I ought not to continue to owe my seat to their master'. Whatever overtures Perceval may have made to him in his quest for new allies, he refused. On 17 Mar. he quixotically defended the Regent's attitude to the Irish claims at the St. Patrick's Day dinner, for which he was applauded, but his every mention of the Regent hissed: to his son Tom he explained that his position was 'to stand between the Prince and the people possessing the confidence of both'. In April he was 'too ill' to take part in the debate on the Catholic claims though he voted in favour and approved Moira's quarrel with the Prince on the subject; but he disapproved of George Ponsonby's reproaching the Prince for having given up his pledge of 1806 and thought it 'must be put right'.
Sheridan was anxious to refute newspaper reports of his role in the consultations at Carlton House over a new adminstration in May 1812, reminding the Prince on 21 May that he had only seen him once in the last two months, to reassure him that his canvass at Stafford was not a refusal of the Prince's patronage; he subsequently admitted that as the prince had asked his opinion of the negotiations he had given it, as a privy councillor. He also acted as the Prince's intermediary with Moria, who was reconciled to the Prince on 26 May, and Lord Wellesley, who was authorized to form a new governemnt and offered him a 'situation in his arrangements' (the navy office), which he declined. (He had at first been thought of for the Mint, with a seat at one of the boards for his son). Described by Earl Temple as 'stout', Sheridan remonstrated with the Prince on 1 June for countenancing a proscription of Lord Grey, which would be 'injurious', a notion which he assured him did not arise from 'undue partiality'. He was reported as declaring he would 'serve under no other person' than Wellesley and also, by Thomas Grenville on 1 June, to be 'everywhere canvassing these last days, for supporting the Prince in his own nomination of his own household; so that I think it still possible the new overture will quickly close under this difficulty'. This proved right, Grey and Grenville declining on the assumption that the Prince's current household, to which they strongly objected, would not resign, whereupon Wellesley gave up his efforts. Moira tried instead; on 5 June Sheridan reported Grey and Grenville's terms to him. He too gave up, though Sheridan claimed credit for the renewal of this negotiation through Whitbread and Erskine and was expected 'to strengthen their cabinet by his accession to it'. When on 9 June Moira's attempt was given up. Grenville commented, 'I have no doubt but that both Moira and Sheridan have been dupes to the Prince Regent, or rather to Eldon, and that the present dénouement is what was from the first intended'. Sheridan was, however, accused—and his principal accuser was Tierney— of having dished the negotiations by omitting to inform Grey and Grenville that Lord Yarmouth had told the Prince and himself that, in the event of the negotiations succeeding, he intended to resign. Sheridan was held to be hostile to any such capitulation and Tierney alleged that Sheridan had bet him the Household would not resign.
Sheridan resolved to face his accusers, despite efforts to restrain him by Moira, who reported to Col. MaMahon, 14 June:
All argument with Sheridan ... has been unavailing. This much, however, I have gained; that I have made him limit definitely the substance of what he is to address to the House. The amount is this. He will assert that he never gave to the Regent any secret counsel on the subject of the negotiation; and he will decalre that what Lord Yarmouth said to him respecting the projected resignation of the Hertford family was not communicated in any manner which should make it incumbent on him (Sheridan) to impart the determination to Lords Grenville and Grey directly or through me. If he keeps to this, no harm will be done, and I think he will be precise to the point.
Moira added that Sheridan was to see the Prince beforehand, but did not think the Prince could make him change his mind. Sheridan promised discretion and to say 'very little', but his explanation, of which he gave notice on 15 June, was rambling and indecisive: he was, he admitted, unwell and unable to finish it. He denied he was either the tool, the negotiator or the evil genius of the Prince; blamed the Whigs' squabbling over Household influence for their failure and admitted that he saw no need for the present Household to resign. He resumed on 19 June, when he brushed aside Yarmouth's resignation of the Household disclosure and denied Tierney's story: his resignation of the Household was contingent upon a circumstance which at that time was more remote from taking place than ever. Had his advice been followed, there would have been a change of government: he could no more support Liverpool's than he could Perceval's administration, since they denied Catholic relief to Ireland. As for coalition governments, he had always disliked them and he hoped for 'a party new to the public, of whom the public can approve'. Tierney's reply reflected the long-standing bitterness between the two men: he ended by accusing Sheridan of secretly wishing for a coalition of Whitbread and Canning. To this Sheridan would not reply, but after Ponsonby had criticized him and Whitbread come to his defence, he concluded by denying that he had any double part to play: why should he be the intermediary with Grenville and Grey? But Vansittart reported of the 'flat contradiction' between Sheridan and Tierney, 'everyone supposes that Sheridan must have been too drunk to remember what he said. He is much broken lately and in a state of evident decay.' The Speaker recorded sardonically in his diary, 'Sheridan proceeded to complete his narration of his own good conduct, and the palpable misconduct of his opposition friends in the late negotiation'. Wilberfore thought it 'most twaddling', and Bennet
most doting, and showed hardly any remains of what he was; he forgot all facts, and made such an exhibition that it would have been cruel to have pressed him hard, which neither Tierney nor Ponsonby did. Tierney told me that he thinks him quite gone; that once during his speech his jaw became locked, so that he could not utter; I never witnessed a sight more distressing. I have no doubt he will never speak again.
It appears that Sheridan no more impressed the Whigs at Brook's than he did the House of Commons with his apologia. Whitbread, who knew that he had been trying to remove the Prince's prejudices against Grey, was disposed to exonerate him: so, on 'a review of the case' was Brougham, who said 'it really was evident that he had not been as bad and as treacherous as before suspected ... there was nothing against Sheridan but the guilt of one of those lies he was so subject to tell'. Even as the scapegoat of the Whigs, he was not at a loss. Bennet reported: 'In the midst of all these serious things, the only joke I have heard of was from Sheridan, who said to me the other night that two trades were lost in this town viz cabinet makers and joiners'.38
Sheridan's last speeches were against the leather tax, 26 June 1812, which was ruinous to his 'former and probably his future constituents at Stafford'; against what he termed the vindictive prosecution of two Irishmen, 14 and 21 July; against the preservation of the public peace bill, which invoked an imaginary conspiracy to disarm a nation that ought to be under arms, 16 July; and finally, 21 July, in favour of the rejection of the French peace overture. He then said of the British constitution, 'wanting certainly as it did many reforms, yet, practically it afforded the best security that human wisdom had ever given to man'. Moreover, if Britain lost the war with Buonaparte 'with her fell all the best securities for the charities of human life, for the power, and honour, the fame, the glory, and the liberties of herself, and the whole civilised world'.
Sheridan proceeded to lose his election at Stafford, for which, rather than his own negligence, he blamed Whitbread, who was 'building a scheme of ambition on the Princess' which he feared Sheridan would oppose and had refused him an advance on his assets from the theatre, therby 'overturning probably all the honour and independence of what remains of my political life'. Canning in August 1812, reported Sheridan as saying he would act with him in politics henceforward, but John William Ward* wondered what could become of him.
He is out with all parties, he has taken leave of the Prince, defied the ministry, and quarrelled with the opposition ... I believe he was better inclined to us than to anybody else, but I don't fancy that that we can do anything for him to do anything for him in the way of a seat. Then come the creditors—I don't see how he is to keep out of the Bench—and so author of the School for Scandal, rival of Mr Pitt and Mr Fox may at last die in a gaol.
Lord John Townshend informed Whitbread, 27 Oct.:
If the news of the Stafford defeat had arrived in town a few hours sooner, Sherry's friends I hear would certainly have set him up for Westminster ... I suppose however the Prince will take care he is brought in somewhere or other, though Thanet says that Mrs Sheridan has declared that a jail is far preferable to disgrace of his coming in for a Treasury borough.
Yet Sheridan had to be in Parliament. After his defeat he said that the Prince would bring him in 'and that he shall only look very foolish when he goes back as he refused the Prince's offer saying he could even bring in another Member at Stafford'; but he refused sanctuary at Carlton House, denying he needed it, and he at first hesitated when the Prince offered to secure him a seat. Lord Holland informed Grey, 21 Oct. 1812:
Sheridan has been offered a return by the Prince but refused it for the present. He asked me whether I thought he could take one with honour and continue to vote as he liked, and I told him what I think that under his circumstances and with his sort of connexion with the Prince I certainly thought 'he could'. I would be I added a disgrace to the Prince, if he left Sheridan out of Parliament, and that I for one should think anybody who blamed him for taking it would be very unjust ... Whether from his fault or not, he is not so connected with us with us as to be bound to accept nothing from those we oppose and notwithstanding his assurance to me that thank God he did not owe a sixpence, his being in Parliament is more a matter of necessity to him than to any other person.
Grey disagreed, considering 'all claims of that kind are entirely cancelled on both sides': he was informed that the Prince had deposited £5,000 'to bring Sheridan in, so he is to come as a humble and devoted servant'. Sheridan, who admitted to being 'anxious to be in Parliament and to take a line which I think the Prince Regent will not disapprove of', was by the Prince's own account provided by him with £4,000 to purchase his return for Wootton Bassett from John Attersoll*; but despite a letter to Col. McMahon announcing his departure and informing him that he was 'most reluctantly incurring the expense, but with a hope that my presence in House may afford an opportunity of being useful to the Prince', he never went and was not returned.
Sheridan needed the money for his own affairs. The Prince justified his subsequent neglect of him by reference to this episode. Sheridan himself told Lord Holland that the Prince had offered to bring him into Parliament, but he refused because 'he had no idea of risking the high independence of character which he had always sustained, by putting it in the power of any man, by any possibility whatever, to dictate to him'. Yet, 'in the very same conversation', he talked of borrowing £4,000 from the Prince for a seat: 'I shall then (he said) only owe him £4,000 which will leave me as free as air'. Holland thought this typical of Sheridan's tendency to couple 'the most romantic professions of honour and independence' with 'conduct of the meanest and most swindling kind', owing to 'the high, ideal system he had formed of a sort of impracticable perfection in honour, virtue, etc. anything short of which he seemed to think not worth aiming at; and thus consoled himself for the extreme laxity of his practice by the impossibility of satisfying or coming up to the sublime theory he had formed'. On 12 Nov. 1812 Col. McMahon informed the Regent that Sheridan's
boasted secuirty appears to have turned out ... very visionary, for he last night got notice that two of his creditors had disclaimed any further forbearance while he remained out of Parliament, and he sets off tonight for Hampshire.
The day before, Canning had written to McMahon asking him if it was true 'poor Sheridan is to find a refuge at Gatton'. Horrified at having to regard Parliament as a 'refuge', Sheridan eschewed an opening at Salisbury in February 1813, but emphasized his 'political grounds' for being in Parliament. He never returned there, though Horner hoped, 7 Mar. 1813, that 'it is for Sheridan that the vacancy is made at Wootton Bassett. He has been mortified long enough, and most ungratefully used by the Regent.' When his friends at Stafford consoled him with a 'golden' cup, 14 Apr. 1813, he told them he could only sit 'free, unfettered and independent'.39
Spleen set in: to Tom he wrote, 30 July 1813, 'Politics I am sick of. The Prince I know nothing of'. Party is a cheat, Stafford worse, and the theatre and the conduct towards me I hate to think of.' (Whitbread, having bought him out, had refused him any say in the new theatre.) Tom himself was consumptive and had to be found a place at the Cape on the Duke of York's interest, since 'reliance on the Prince we can have none'; Mrs Sheridan was stricken with cancer. Sheridan himself was arrested for debt in May 1814 and had to be bailed out by Whitbread, whom he repoached for withholding his assets from him as security against the preposterous claims on the theatre of William Taylor I*. There was a glimmer of hope afterwards having avoided the Prince since the Wootton Bassett episode, he saw him again, and soon afterwards, as he informed McMahon, decided to stand for Westminsiter. 'I have the Whig support made known to me through the Duke of Norfolk. This will enable me only to be a more powerful and efficient friend to the Prince. After what has passed between me and Lord Sidmouth I cannot doubt the support of government.' He was confident he would be preferred to Brougham and had looked to the seat the year before, when it seemed Lord Cochrane's father might die. To Norfolk he wrote on 5 July, 'this crisis and last effort is the winding up of my poilitical exertions'. When it become known, however, that Cochrane woud contest his expulsion from the House, Sheridan stood down in his favour, to satisfy in conscience, 10 July. He was reported to be 'dissatisfied' with this, but pointed out to McMahon that Brougham's withdrawl justified his own, for Brougham's canditature was 'a personal assault on the Prince'; to have persisted would have been unwise, as there would have been 'a popular yell for three weeks' on the subject of Cochrane; supplies were short and he had no subscription, while 'the leading Talents', that is Grenville, Grey and Whitbread, were against him. Creevey, a partisan of Brougham, commented on 29 June of Sheridan's candidature at Westminster that he seemed to treat it as 'a close borough in his family'.
The Whigs have just discovered Old Sherry to be 'an old and valued friend and an ancient adherent of Fox'. They therefore support him. To be sure, he has ratted and left them—he kept them out of office twice—and he now openly stands on Yarmouth's influence and C[arlton] House and Lord Liverpool is supporting him!
On 1 July he added 'Holland House from personal hatred [of Brougham] supports Sherry; the Russells and Cavendishes, I understand, quite the contrary'.
Although Sheridan's debts were found to be no more than about £8,000 at his death, he groaned under 'the oppression of the grossest impositions that fraud ever practised on credulity and carelessness' (23 Dec. 1814) and noted, 'I am becoming a perfect misanthrope, but a very good-humoured one—which is a new character'. He dwelt, to his wife, on his 'sins of omission ... senseless credulity, destructive procrastination, unworthy indolence, all abetted by one vile habit, somewhat perhaps to be palliated by an original infirmity of constitution but never to [be] excused'. What destroyed him was 'an occasional and unaccountable dejection of spirits without a cause and a constant inabilty to sleep'. Anticipating the death of the Duke of Norfolk, Sheridan informed his wife, August 1815:
He had just settled a plan to give me a seat without expense before the next meeting of Parliament—and he is nearly the only one I would accept one from because he knows my condition of being my own absolute master—and in politics no difference has existed between us. But poor Dan he meet[s] with many disappointments lately—but no matter—I shall come through.
That the duke intended to give him a seat was confirmed by Lady Holland, writing to Grey, 9 Jan. 1816, when she reported Sheridan 'very unwell'. Grey replied that he was sorry, 'though I believe a worse man never existed; certainly none who ever did more public mischief, or created more private misery to all who have had the misfortune of being connected with him'. On 27 May Sheridan took to his bed, 'undone and broken hearted' and pursued by bailiffs. To Canning, who had just found a place for his son Charles Sheridan, he wrote one of his begging letters, 19 June, adding, 'I think I shall come among you by next session'. Sheridan died at noon, 7 July 1816. He had informed his French translator, Châteaunerf, 'notre Régent ... m'abandonne! non, je vais mourir et je lui pardonne'.40
Romilly remarked on the day of Sheridan's splendid funeral at Westminster Abbey, where there was just 'space enough' for him in Poets' Corner,
Executions for debt were in his house; and he passed his last days in the custody of sheriff's officers, who abstained from conveying him to prison merely because they were assured that to remove him would cause his immediate death; and now, when dead, a crowd of persons the first in rank, and station, and opulence, were eager to attend him to his grave ... The immediate cause of his death was reported to be an abcess, but the truth is, that his constitution was nearly worn out, and that his death was rapidly accelerated by grief, disappointment, and a deep sense of the neglect he experienced.
Sheridan's family had refused offers of financial relief for him in his last days, though the Duke of Wellington subsequently asked government to provide for them because Sheridan had 'upon several important occasions ... rendered esential service to government'. The Times oblituary of 8 July characterized Sheridan as 'a bold reprover of the selfish spirit of party ... the most popular specimen in the British Senate of political consistency, intrepidity and honour', and mocked at his 'old detractors' among the Whigs, who were now 'discharging a post obit bond'. Lord Holland, for the Whigs, had this to say in the section of memoirs where he denied the notion that Burke and Sheridan were refused cabinet office because they lacked rank:
Mr Sheridan [was] ... yet less likely to attain the permanent confidence of a body of independent English gentlemen. I do not speak merely of his dissipation and intemperate habits, though towards the close of his life amounting almost to disqualifications, but there were others of a graver nature, such as not even his fascinating manners and exquisite wit (for the attainment of special and immediate purposes almost irresistible) could, in any protracted commerce or relationship with him, counterbalance ... jealousy of disposition, delight in artifice and contrivance, and a proneness to gratify his own vanity with disregard to the feelings and reputations of other men, and above all, an occasional indifference to truth, rendered any habitual reliance on his conduct preposterous in the extreme. The irregularities and mortifications of his early life may, in a great degree, palliate such defects in his moral character, but there is no denying them.
While Holland admitted that 'it was reserved for Sheridan to be brilliant alike in the club, the theatre, and the senate', he found that he had 'no great appetite for general knowledge. Endowed as he was with the powers of memory and observation, he had less learning than the common run of well-educated men in society. He was conscious of his deficiency.' Lord John Townshend endorsed this, writing in 1825:
True it is that his speeches were greatly prepared and he required preparation. But why? Because he was really ignorant in the extreme—had no science or knowledge of any kind, except what he possessed of English poetry and there he was at home. But with regard to everything else, law, history, politics, commerce he was all abroad, and of course had the prudence not to expose himself. But give him the necessary time (and a very little he wanted), allow him but half a day to make up his fund (when any other person as scantily furnished would require perhaps more than a week) then see what a glorious figure he would make. The fact is, he was as quick as lightning.41
Sheridan craved political glory to the end, but his 'celebrated Philippic' against Warren Hastings remained his only unquestionable symbol of it: he needed Lord Byron, a boon companion of his last years, to remind him tha apart from this, 'the very best oration ... ever conceived or heard in this country', he had also written 'the best comedy ... the best drama ... the best farce ... and the best address'. It reduced him to tears; as did, about the same time 'some observation or other upon the subject of the steadiness of the Whigs in resisting office and keeping to their principles'. Sheridan (reported Byron) retorted:
'Sir, it is easy for my Lord G— or Earl G— or Marquis B— or Lord H— with thousands upon thousands a year, some of it either presently derived or inherited in sinecures or acquisitions from the public money, to boast of their patriotism and keep aloof from temptation; but they do not know from what temptation those have kept aloof who had equal pride, at least equal talents, and not unequal passions, and nevertheless knew not in the course of their lives what it was to have a shilling of their own'. And in saying this he wept. I have more than once heard him say 'that he never had a shilling of his own'. To be sure, he contrived to extract a good many of other people's. Such was Sheridan! He could soften an attorney! There has been nothing like it since the days of Orpheus.
Byron advised Thomas Moore, Sheridan's biographer-elect:
In writing the Life of Sheridan, never mind the angry lies of the humbug Whigs, recollect that he was an Irishman and a clever fellow ... Depend upon it that there were worse folks going, of that gang, than ever Sheridan was ... Without means, without connexion, without character (which might be false at first, and make him mad afterwards from desperation), he beat them all, in all he ever attempted. But alas, poor human nature!42
'The last of the giants'43—for he survived Burke, Pitt, Fox and Windham—Sheridan fell prey to what he called 'the great commanding passion of all', vanity, which drove him from the romance of his life to makeshift gallantry, from friendship for the people to courtship of the mob, from adroit management to low intrigue, and from honourable independence to courtly beggary. He remained, secure in his confidence in verbal victory, a phenomenon; if on Brougham's authority, he must be denied statemanship, 'his knowledge of men was admirable, and his insight into character keen. No man formed a more just estimate of the result of public measures; he dissuaded his party from all the measures which proved unfortunate to them' (Sir James Mackintosh).44 He was, besides, the political dramatist of his age par excellence: it may be doubted whether any English parliaments have been so entertained by the superior ingenuity of one fertile imagination as were those eight on which Sheridan cast his spell.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
Sheridan lived at Bruton Street, 1784-91, except for an interval at Mrs Fitzherbert’s in 1789, and had a villa at Wanstead. Evicted from the former in 1791, he rented Mrs Keppel’s house at Isleworth and, while in town, slept at Nerot’s hotel. In 1796 he bought a small estate at Polesden, Surr. He also had town houses at Hertford Street (1795-1801) and 3 Cork Street thereafter, but in 1808 was obliged to seek asylum with Peter Moore* at 7 Gt. George Street. In 1810 a windfall enabled him to live comfortably at Barnes Terrace for a few months, but by February 1811 he was at 6 Cavendish Square and late in 1812 at Savile Row, where he also moved once before his last exit, still pursued by bailiffs.
- 1. This daughter, Mary, was believed to be Ld. Edward Fitzgerald's Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 23. Sheridan had an illegitimate daughter, by a governess, known as Fanny Mortimer.
- 2. Colchester, i. 24; Farington, vii. 229; Minto, i. 124, 207, 261, 312; Lefanu, Jnl. Betsy Sheridan; Cornwallis Corresp. i. 410; Auckland Jnl. ii. 267; Burke Corresp. vi. 127, 178.
- 3. Minto, i. 350-4, 357, 366, 368; Fox Corresp. ii. 363; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xi. 314; Oracle, 28 July 1791.
- 4. Sheridan Letters ed. Price, i. 239.
- 5. Edinburgh Advertiser, 25-29 June 1790; Public Advertiser, 22 Feb. 1791; Add. 47570, f. 183; Farington, iv. 43; Sheridan Letters, i. 223, 227; Windham Diary, 222; Burke Corresp. vi. 249.
- 6. M. D. George, Cat. Pol. and Personal Satires, vi. 8087, etc.
- 7. T. Moore, Sheridan (1825), ii. 220; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 21; Jnl. of William Bagshaw Stevens, 149; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1039, 1185, 1329; Burke Corresp. vii. 516; viii. 109; Windham Diary, 306; Farington, i. 36, 90; SRO GD51/1/604/2; Sheridan Letters, ii. 11; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 59; HMC Hastings, iii. 312; Add. 28067, f. 132; Fitzwilliam mss, X512/15, Ld. to Lady Fitzwilliam ; Leveson Gower, i. 76; Add. 51706, Pelham to Lady Holland, 16 Apr. 1794; Harewood mss, Canning to Rev. Leigh, 7 Feb. 1795; Colchester, i. 3, 6, 11, 23, 29; PRO 30/9/31; Life of Wilberforce (1838), ii. 116; True Briton, 20 Nov. 1795; Windham Pprs. i. 317.
- 8. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1138, 1140, 1142; Sheridan Letters, ii. 43, 53; Horace Walpole Corresp. (Yale ed.), xii. 214; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1507, 1526; Morning Chron. 12 Apr.; The Times, 21, 28 Apr. 1797.
- 9. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1264, 1270; Ailesbury mss, Ailesbury diary, 28 May; Grey mss, Grey to Bigge, 15 June 1797; Sheridan Letters, ii. 69, 77; Fox Corresp. iii. 272; Morning Chron. 7 June; The Times, 12 June 1797, 22 Mar. 1798; Wraxall Mems. ed. Wheatley, iii. 371.
- 10. Morning Chron. 13 Dec. 1797; Colchester, i. 150, 169; Paget Pprs. i. 138; Add. 37416, f. 31; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 1721, 1722; Leveson Gower, i. 163, 194, 216; ii. 5, 7, 17, 32, 48, 93, 188, 236, 276, 293, 308, 541; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2284.
- 11. Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 220, 249, 255; Fox Corresp. iii. 293; Tabletalk of S. Rogers ed. Dyce, 96.
- 12. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 73, 95; Sheridan Letters, ii. 135, 139, 141; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 13, 25 Nov.; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, [c. 30 Nov.], 2 Dec. 1800; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2276, 2288; Colchester, i. 210; Fox Corresp. iii. 296, 308, 315; iv. 559; Add. 47566, f. 67; 51735, Holland to Caroline Fox, 6 Dec. 1800.
- 13. Leveson Gower, i. 301; Colchester, i. 232, 247; HMC Fortescue, vi. 455; The Times, 27 June 1801; Sheridan Letters, ii. 149, 151, 153, 154; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2284; Lonsdale mss, Westmorland to Lowther, 14 Mar. 1801.
- 14. Holland, Mems. Whig Party, i. 186; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 273; HMC Fortescue, vii. 76, 78; Grey mss, Grey to Whitbread, 31 Jan.; Lansdowne mss, Smyth to Petty, 21 May 1802; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iii. 197.
- 15. The Times, 26 June 1802; Sheridan Letters, ii. 184-5; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 133, 136, 145, 149; Rose Diaries, i. 507; Fox Corresp. iii. 206, 388; Windham Pprs. ii. 199; Windham Diary, 440; Add. 35702, f. 46; 35737, f. 136; 47566, f. 130, 132, 134; 51585, Tierney to Lady Holland, 26 Dec.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 17 Dec. 1802, Erskine to same, 14 Jan. 1803; HMC Fortescue, vii. 133; Buckingham, iii. 242; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 354.
- 16. Farington, ii. 101, 103, 107; Harewood mss, Canning to Leigh, 7 May; Add. 51686, Petty to Holland, 6 June 1803; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 105.
- 17. Buckingham, iii. 242, 303; Add. 37846, Grenville to Windham, 30 July; 51736, Caroline Fox to Holland, 21 Aug. 1803; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 118; The Times, 26 May, 8 June, 3, 5 Aug. 1803; HMC Fortescue, vii. 180; Fox Corresp. iii. 420, 425, 427; iv. 11; Grey mss; Fitzwilliam mss, box 63; Moore Mems. ed. Russell, ii. 226; Leveson Gower, i. 427.
- 18. Leveson Gower, i. 430.
- 19. Ibid. i. 430, 436; Creevey Pprs. i. 21.
- 20. Leveson Gower, i. 437; Creevey Pprs. i. 16, 21; Pellew, ii. 223, 224; Add. 35703, f. 262; Rose Diaries, ii. 59; Fox Corresp. iii. 428, 433, 439, 443; HMC Fortescue, vii. 197, 203; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 142; The Times, 22 Nov., 3 Dec.; Grey mss Grey to Bigge, 25 Nov., Whitbread to Grey, 6 Dec. 1803; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1861.
- 21. Sheridan Letters, ii. 210, 212, 216; Moore, Sheridan, ii. 324; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1803; Colchester, i. 481, 490-2; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 24, 27 Feb. 1804; D. M. Stuart, Dearest Bess, 115; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 370-2; Fox Corresp. iv. 25; Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 16 Mar. ; Pellew, ii. 269; Add. 35705, f. 276.
- 22. Stanhope, Pitt, iv. 133; Add. 40102, f. 133; Creevey Pprs. i. 25; Leveson Gower, i. 453, 455, 456; Whitbread mss W1/889, 892; Fox Corresp. iii. 460; iv. 41; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 51, 372.
- 23. Minto, iii. 348; Add. 35715, f. 84; Creevey's Life and Times, 20; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 369; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 1913; Spencer mss, Lady to Ld. Spencer, 28 Aug. 1804; Buckingham, iii. 367, 378, 387; Rose Diaries, ii. 169-70; Leveson Gower, i. 476; HMC Fortescue, vii. 242; Grey mss, Creevey to Grey [30 Nov. 1804]; Fox Corresp. iv. 63; Sheridan Letters, ii. 225, 230-1; Lonsdale mss, Essex to Lowther, 29 Nov. 1804.
- 24. Colchester, i. 558; Moore, Sheridan, ii. 333; Leveson Gower, ii. 60, 104, 139; Creevey Pprs. i. 33, 51, 57; Farington, iii. 145; iv. 32, 168.
- 25. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 12 Nov. 1805; Pellew, ii. 395, 412; Sheridan Letters, ii. 258; D. M. Stuart, 137; PRO 30/12/17/5, Erskine to Ellenborough, 4 Mar. 1806; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2123; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 31 Jan. 4 Mar. 1806; Horner mss 8, f. 28; W. Smyth, Mems. of Mr Sheridan, 66.
- 26. Sheridan Letters, ii. 259, 260, 261, 266, 268, 272, 284, 291; HMC Fortescue, viii. 32, 35, 37; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2143; Horner mss 3, f. 17; HMC Lonsdale, 181; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 301; Fortescue mss, T. to Ld. Grenville, 1 Aug. 1806.
- 27. Leveson Gower, ii. 202; Minto, iii. 397; Creevey Pprs. i. 81.
- 28. Sheridan Letters, ii. 271, 276, 278, 279, 282, 289; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 170, 172; Horner mss 8, f. 27; Moore Mems. ii. 195, 199; Holland, ii. 56, 63; Moore, Sheridan, ii. 340-3; Farington, iii. 302; iv. 45, 53; HMC Fortescue, viii. 336, 338, 427; Creevey's Life and Times, 31, 32, 35; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2225, 2234, 2261, 2276; Fortescue mss, Moira to Grenville, 16 Sept.; Grey mss, Howwick to Northumberland, 17 Sept., Fitzwilliam to Howick, 23 Nov.; Holland House mss, Holland to Lauderdale, 22 Sept. 1806; HMC Lonsdale, 200; Leveson Gower, ii. 212; Staffs. Advertiser, 1, 8 Nov. 1806; Whitbread mss W1/1988; Melville, Cobbett, i. 329.
- 29. Blair Adam mss, Bedford to Adam, 19, 27, Oct. 1806; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 1, 20 Mar. 1807; Colchester, ii. 109; European Mag. (1807), 403; The Times, 29 Apr. 1807; HMC Hastings, iii. 266; Add. 52178, Brougham to Allen [5 June 1807], Brougham mss 34983; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2415; Sidmouth mss, Bragge Bathurst to Sidmouth, 26 May; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 14 Dec. 1807; Sheridan Letters, iii. 21-27; Carlisle mss, Lady E. Foster to Morpeth, 17, 22 Dec. 1807.
- 30. Romilly, Mems. ii. 220; Leveson Gower, ii. 271, 307; Farington, iv. 186; Sheridan Letters, ii. 307; iii. 4; Malmesbury mss, Palmerston to Malmesbury, 14 Aug.; Add. 41852, f. 323, 51550, Grey to Holland, 6 Dec. 1807; Letters of Lady Harriet Cavendish, 251; Sidmouth mss, Bragge Bathurst to Sidmouth, 12 Dec. 1807; Hants RO, Tierney mss 33d; Whitbread mss W1/2434, 2435, 2437.
- 31. NLI, Richmond mss 66/835; HMC Fortescue, ix. 170; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 9 Jan.; Whitbread mss W1/373/12; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 22 Jan., Whitbread to Grey, 16 June 1808, Tierney to same, 19 Jan. 1809; Geo III Corresp. v. 3590; Life of Wilberforce, iii. 367; Add. 51544, Holland to Grey [22 June]; 51550, Grey to Lady Holland, 2 July 1808; Romilly, ii. 256; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2469, 2495; Farington, v. 45.
- 32. Blair Adam mss, Sheridan to Adam, Mon., Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 25 Feb. 1809; Monthly Mirror (1809), 378; Sheridan Letters, iii. 70; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 25 Feb., Lauderdale to same, Fri. [3 Mar.]; Holland to Grey, 30 Sept., 2 Oct., Grey to Holland, 3, 5 Oct., Grenville to Grey, 2 Oct. 1809; Farington, v. 142; Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 39; HMC Fortescue, ix. 329, 334; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 6 Oct. 1809; NLI, Richmond mss 65/790; Perceval (Holland) mss 5, f. 3; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 277-8.
- 33. Lady Bessborough and her Circle of Friends, 201; Leveson Gower, ii. 353; Sheridan Letters, iii. 74, 77, 91; Creevey Pprs. i. 52; Windham Diary, 503.
- 34. Farington, vi. 210; Glenbervie Diaries, ii. 71; Fortescue mss, Holland to Grenville, 2 Nov.; Sidmouth mss, Buckingham to Sidmouth, 21 Nov. 1810; Richmond mss 73/1664; Sheridan Letters, iii. 94, 95; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 23 Nov. 1810; S. Parr, Works, vii. 131; Colchester, ii. 290; Auckland Jnl. iv. 355, 360, 361; Add. 41853, f. 206; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [18 Dec. 1810]; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 266, 280.
- 35. Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2801, 2808, 2811, 2816, 2840; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 6 Jan.; Brougham mss, Brougham to grey [3 Jan. 1811]; Richmond mss 64/589; Colchester, ii. 307, 309, 371; Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 283; Further Mems. Whig Party, 71-73; Creevey Pprs. i. 138; Phipps, ii. 367, 371; HMC Fortescue, x. 100, 103, 107; Buckingham, Regency, i. 28, 35; P. h. Fitzgerald, Lives of Sheridans, ii. 147-9; Sheridan Letters, iii. 100, 109, 114, 115; C. Grey, Life of 2nd Earl Grey, 273; A. M. W. Stirling, Coke of Norfolk (1912), 345; Rose Diaries, ii. 478; Moore Mems. ii. 185.
- 36. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 20 July; Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey [23 July 1811]; Romilly, iii. 411; Colchester, ii. 342; HMC Fortescue, x. 141, 158; Sheridan Letters, iii. 120; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 1 Apr.; Add. 51585, Tierney to Lady Holland [1 June 1811].
- 37. Moore Mems. ii. 297; Fortescue mss, Holland to Grenville, 8 Aug.; Lansdowne mss, Lady Holland to Lansdowne, n.d. ; Creevey Pprs. i. 146, 149; HMC Fortescue, x. 167; Sheridan Letters, iii. 128, 135, 137.
- 38. Sheridan Letters, iii. 145, 147, 150, 160; Phipps, i. 428, 431, 430; Geo. IV Letters, i. 64, 80, 117, 119; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 22 Jan. 1812 (wrongly dated 1811); Kent RO Harris mss C67/86; Add. 37297, f. 168; Buckingham, Regency, i. 236, 337, 357; Colchester, ii. 389; Creevey Pprs. i. 162, 164; Add. 34458, f. 365; Life of Wilberforce, iv. 34; Fitzgerald, ii. 163, 175, 178.
- 39. Sheridan Letters, iii. 163; 164, 167, 168; Whitbread mss W1/1926; Leveson Gower, ii. 444; Brougham mss 39528: Carlisle mss, Lady to Ld. Morpeth, 7 Oct.; Add. 51545, Holland to Grey, 21 Oct.; 51551, Grey to Holland, 25 Oct.; Grey mss, Perry To Grey, 21 Oct.; 1812; Geo. IV Letters, i. 159, 160, 188, 190; Croker Pprs. ed. Jennings, i. 306-9; Moore Letters ed. Dowden, ii. 547; Moore Mems. ii. 184; Horner mss 5, f. 282.
- 40. Sheridan Letters, iii. 175, 186, 187, 190, 191, 193, 205, 212, 213, 227, 243, 247, 248, 342; Romilly, iii. 145; Farington, vii. 229; Creevey Pprs. i. 201-4; Grey mss, Lady Holland to Grey, 9 Jan., reply 26 Jan.; Add. 51553, Grey to Lady Holland, 26 Jan. 1816.
- 41. Bond mss D367. Jekyll to Bond [July 1816]; Romilly, iii. 261-3; HMC Bathurst, 421; Gent. Mag. (1816), i. 81; Creevey Pprs. i. 162; Further Mems. Whig Party, 239; Brougham mss 26875.
- 42. Moore, Byron Letters (1875), 303, 357; Byron, A Self Portrait ed. Quennell, ii. 432, 435.
- 43. Creevey Pprs. i. 257.
- 44. Mackintosh Mems. ii. 203.