RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN 1751 -
xxxxxRichard Brinsley Sheridan was both an outstanding dramatist and a politician of some repute. He was born in Dublin and educated at Harrow School. At the insistence of his father he was sent to study law at the Middle Temple, London, in April 1773, but after one week he gave up this profession and turned to the theatre for his livelihood.
xxxxxHis first major work as a playwright was The Rivals, a highly successful comedy of manners, full of amusing misunderstandings and famous above all for its unforgettable character Mrs Malaprop. This was produced at Covent Garden, London, in 1775, and the following year, together with his father-
xxxxxBut Sheridan was also attracted to politics. He entered Parliament in 1780, was made secretary to the treasury three years later, and then appointed treasurer of the navy and a member of the Privy Council in 1806. A forthright, eloquent speaker, he is remembered above all for his speeches opposing the war against the American colonies, and for the prominent part he played in the impeachment of Warren Hastings, the former governor general of India. However, he was viewed with some suspicion in government circles, mainly because of his role as advisor to the unpopular Prince of Wales (later king George IV), and because of his ready support for the French Revolution in its early years.
xxxxxThe burning down of his theatre in February 1809, together with the loss of his parliamentary seat in 1812, brought financial ruin. Sadly, too, his last years were marred by mental illness. He died in 1816, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. A brilliant Anglo-
xxxxxIncidentally, the English term malapropism -
xxxxx...... The plight of Sheridan in his final years, beset as he was by creditors and bailiffs, prompted the English poet Lord Byron to write a Monody on the Death of the Right Honourable R.B. Sheridan in 1816.
Sheridan: by the English portrait painter John Russell (1745-