Monday, August 22, 2011

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Georgian Gentleman

Monday, August 22, 2011
Loretta reports:

The playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan is best remembered today for his plays The Rivals and The School for Scandal.  There's a good deal more, as his bio indicates:  a man who packed at least a couple of normal lifetimes into one.  Yet he’s by no means atypical of the Georgian era.  Many of his contemporaries were hard-living, hard-drinking men who could write, speak several languages, make speeches in Parliament, and party all night—even into what in that time was deemed old age. 
"To return to Sheridan at Brighton in the year 1805. His point of difference with the Prince being at an end, Sheridan entered into whatever fun was going on at the Pavilion as if he had been a boy, tho' he was then 55 years of age. Upon one occasion he came into the drawing-room disguised as a police officer to take up the Dowager Lady Sefton * for playing at some unlawful game; and at another time, when we had a phantasmagoria at the Pavilion, and were all shut up in perfect darkness, he continued to seat himself upon the lap of Madame Gerobtzoff [?], a haughty Russian dame, who made row enough for the whole town to hear her.

"The Prince, of course, was delighted with all this; but at last Sheridan made himself so ill with drinking, that he came to us soon after breakfast one day, saying he was in a perfect fever, desiring he might have some table beer, and declaring that he would spend that day with us, and send his excuses by Bloomfield for not dining at the Pavilion. I felt his pulse, and found it going tremendously, but instead of beer, we gave him some hot white wine, of which he drank a bottle, I remember, and his pulse subsided almost instantly. . . . After dinner that day he must have drunk at least a bottle and a half of wine. In the evening we were all going to the Pavilion, where there was to be a ball, and Sheridan said he would go home, i.e., to the Pavilion (where he slept) and would go quietly to bed. He desired me to tell the Prince, if he asked me after him, that he was far from well, and was gone to bed.
* Isabella, daughter of 2nd Earl of Harrington, and widow of the 9th Viscount and 1st Earl of Sefton.
The Creevey papers, 1904
(Since there's quite a bit more to this episode, I've linked to the specific page this time.)

Illustration:  James Gillray, Uncorking old sherry, 10 March 1805.  Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA


Lauren Hairston said...

How could anyone not love Richard Brinsley Sheridan? I'd totally let him sit on my lap at a phantasmagoria.

The Past on a Plate

Jolene said...

I adore Sheridan's comedies, and had the pleasure of playing Lady Sneerwell at London theatre school. Sheer delight!

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