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pleasant predicament. Possibly he had little appetite for breakfast himself; but the servants complained bitterly on this head, and said that Mrs Sheridan was sometimes kept waiting for a couple of hours, while they had to hunt through the neighbourhood, and beat up for coffee, eggs, and French rolls. The same perplexity in this instance appears to have extended to the
providing for the dinner; for so sharp-set were they, that to cut short a debate with a butcher's apprentice about leaving a leg of mutton without the money, the cook clapped it into the pot: the butcher's boy, probably used to such encounters, with equal coolness took it out again, and marched off with it in his tray in triumph. It required a man to be the author of The School for Scandal,' to run the gauntlet of such disagreeable occurrences every hour of the day.*
* Taylor, of the Opera House, used to say of Sheridan, that he could not pull off his hat to him in the street without its costing him fifty pounds; and if he stopped to speak to him, it was a hundred. No one could be a stronger instance than he was of what is called living from hand to mouth. He was always in want of money, though he received vast sums which he must have disbursed; and yet nobody can tell what became of them, for he paid nobody. He spent his wife's fortune (sixteen hundred pounds) in a six weeks' jaunt to Bath, and returned to town as poor as a rat. Whenever he
The going without a dinner is another of the miseries of wanting money, though one can
and his son were invited out into the country, they always went in two post chaises and four; he in one, and his son Tom following in another. This is the secret of those who live in a round of extravagance, and are at the same time always in debt and difficulty—they throw away all the ready money they get upon any new-fangled whim or project that comes in their way, and never think of paying off old scores, which of course accumulate to a dreadful amount.
« Such gain the cap of him who makes them fine, yet keeps his book uncrossed.” Sheridan once wanted to take Mrs Sheridan a very handsome dress down into the country, and went to Barber and Nunn's to order it, saying he must have it by such a day, but promising they should have ready money. Mrs Barber (I think it was) made answer that the time was short, but that ready money was a very charming thing, and that he should have it. Accordingly, at the time appointed she brought the dress, which came to five-and-twenty pounds, and it was sent in to Mr Sheridan, who sent out a Mr Grimm (one of his jackalls) to say he admired it exceedingly, and that he was sure Mrs Sheridan would be delighted with it, but he was sorry to have nothing under a hundred pound bank-note in the house. She said she had come provided for such an accident, and could give change for a hundred, two hundred, or five hundred pound note, if it were necessary. Grimm then went back to his principal for farther instructions; who made an excuse that he had no stamped receipt by him. For this, Mrs B. said she was also provided ; she had brought one in her pocket. At each message, she could hear them laughing heartily in the next room, at the idea of having met with their match for once; and presently
bear up against this calamity better than the former, which really “ blights the tender blos
after, Sheridan came out in high good humour, and paid her the amount of her bill, in ten, five, and one pound notes. Once when a creditor brought him a bill for payment, which had often been presented before, and the man complained of its soiled and tattered state, and said he was quite ashamed to see it, “ I'll tell you what I'd advise you to do with it, my friend,” said Sheridan, “ take it home, and write it upon parchment!” He once mounted a horse which a horsedealer was showing off near a coffee-house at the bottom of St James's street, rode it to Tattersall's, and sold it, and walked quietly back to the spot from which he set out. The owner was furious, swore he would be the death of him ; and, in a quarter of an hour afterwards they were seen sitting together over a bottle of wine in the coffee-house, the horse-jockey with the tears running down his face at Sheridan's jokes, and almost ready to hug him as an honest fellow, Sheridan's house and lobby were beset with duns every morning, who were told that Mr Sheridan was not yet up, and shown into the several rooms on each side of the entrance. As soon as he had breakfasted, he asked, “ Are those doors all shut, John ?” and, being assured they were, marched out very deliberately between them, to the astonishment of his self-invited guests, who soon found the bird was flown. I have heard one of his old city friends declare, that such was the effect of his frank, cordial manner, and insinuating eloquence, that he was always afraid to go to ask him for a debt of long standing, lest he should borrow twice as much. A play had been put off one night, or a favourite actor did not appear, and the audience demanded to have their money back again : but when they came to the door, they were told
som and promise of the day.” With one good meal, one may hold a parley with hunger and
by the check-takers there was none for them, for that Mr Sheridan had been in the mean time, and had carried off all the money in the till. He used often to get the old cobbler who kept a stall under the ruins of Drury Lane to broil a beef-steak for him, and take their dinner together. On the night that Drury Lane was burnt down, Sheridan was in the House of Commons, making a speech, though he could hardly stand without leaning his hands on the table, and it was with some difficulty he was forced away, urging the plea, “What signified the concerns of a private individual, compared to the good of the state?” When he got to Covent Garden, he went into the Piazza Coffee-house, to steady himself with another bottle, and then strolled out to the end of the Piazza to look at the progress of the fire. Here he was accosted by Charles Kemble and Fawcett, who compli. mented him on the calmness with which he seemed to regard so great a loss. He declined this praise, and said—“Gentlemen, there are but three things in human life that in my opinion ought to disturb a wise man's patience. The first of these is bodily pain, and that (whatever the ancient stoics may have said to the contrary) is too much for any man to bear without flinching : this I have felt severely, and I know it to be the case. The second is the loss of a friend whom you have dearly loved ; that, gentlemen, is a great evil : this I have also felt, and I know it to be too much for any man's fortitude. And the third is the consciousness of having done an unjust action. That, gentlemen, is a great evil, a very great evil, too much for any man to endure the reflection of; but that " (laying his hand upon his heart,)“ but that, thank God, I have never felt!" I have been told that these were
moralize upon temperance. One has time to turn one's-self and look about one-to “screw one's courage to the sticking-place,” to graduate the scale of disappointment, and stave off appetite till supper-time. You gain time, and time in this weather-cock world is every thing. You may dine at two, or at six, or seven-as most convenient. You may in the meanwhile receive an invitation to dinner, or some one (not knowing how you are circumstanced) may send you a present of a haunch of venison or a brace of pheasants from the country, or a distant relation may die and leave you a legacy, or a patron may call and overwhelm you with his smiles and bounty,
“ As kind as kings upon their coronation-day;" or there is no saying what may happen. One may wait for dinner, breakfast admits of no
nearly the very words, except that he appealed to the mens conscia recti very emphatically three or four times over, by an excellent authority, Mr Mathews the player, who was on the spot at the time,-a gentleman whom the public admire deservedly, but with whose real talents and nice discrimination of character his friends only are acquainted. Sheridan's reply to the watchman who had picked him up in the street, and who wanted to know who he was, “I am Mr Wilberforce !"-is well known, and shews that, however frequently he might be at a loss for money, he never wanted wit!