1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Sheridan

Anonymous, "Biographical Anecdotes of the late Mrs. Sheridan" New London Magazine 8 (July 1792) 307-08.



The wonder of a philosopher cannot be excited more powerfully on any occasion, than when he contemplates the apathy with which society in general survey the frailty of human existence; — though the cold hand of death is incessantly thinning the busy circles of friendship, yet, misled either by our hope or our ignorance, we consider the events as partial administrations of the destruction, and plunge and flounder on, unheeding, in the morasses of error, till we are arrested in the toilsome progress, engulfed, and no more!

The charmful and meritorious subject of these remarks, is the only female relative left of an extraordinary family, who seemed to possess peculiar endowments, and an uncommon portion of innate merit; but such is the frail tenure of our being, that they had scarcely been ripened by maturity, before they fell sacrifices to disease — they were rare flowers prematurely mown while they blossomed, and torn from our senses, while their graces and their perfume conveyed full delight. Mrs. Sheridan has been permitted to approach nearer to perfection than her lamented sisters; the protraction of her valuable life has given her a more enlarged opportunity to polish the mind and exalt the soul.

It is doubted if Hymen ever looked more triumphantly, than when Mr. Sheridan led this lady to his altar — Love and Reason hurried to the fane to be present at the celebration, while the Muses sung the Epithalamium. — It formed an epoch dear to the interests of Parnassus — it was an eternal covenant between Genius and Beauty.

That period which involved Mr. Sheridan in a war of politics, and operated like an evil-fraught Talisman upon the fine powers of his creative fancy, was the same at which this excellent woman resolved to withhold her matchless melody from the public ear. I apprehend, that, in both instances, the force of improper prejudice conquered the heart in either party, who might fear that the introduction of professional accomplishments (however great or prized) in the domestic retirements of what is ludicrously termed the "high world," would not be completely acceptable, while the public exercise of such alluring talents was accompanied by a liberal remuneration.

To particularize my own sensations, I never beheld Mrs. Sheridan without emotions of respect approaching to sublimity — I was fascinated by an object unequalled; — the force of local rank was diminished in her presence, and she tacitly enforced adoration, when my reflection brooded upon her astonishing attainments, or her envied symmetry.

Without knowing any cause to justify its origin, there has been, evidently, for several years an interesting pensiveness, an undescribable languor, in the eyes of Mrs. Sheridan, which seemed to look with majestic sorrow upon the frivolities of an elbowing multitude — her vision seemed clouded by the pressure of an overcharged understanding — they were like two gems dimmed by the breath of melancholy!

We must lament that the solicitudes of ambition are too prevalent for the counterbalancing influence of philosophy — the mind gnaws and feeds upon the subordinate frame, and our wishes become more complicated and insatiate, in proportion as the faculty of thinking is enfeebled by malady or time.

The late Sir Watkin Williams Wynn made it a particular request, that Mrs. Sheridan should sing to him in his dying moments; to which she kindly acceded; but as she warbled the hymn sacred to friendship, the tears of sensibility wetted her pale cheek.