1779
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On the Death of my unfortunate Brother.

Gentleman's Magazine 49 (December 1779) 608.

Elizabeth Sheridan


An elegy modelled on Milton's Lycidas, though not pastoral, signed "T. B." The celebrated singer Elizabeth Sheridan's younger brother, Thomas Linley (1756-78), was a fellow musician and friend of Mozart; he drowned when a pleasure-boat capsized off the Lincolnshire coast in 1778. Mrs. Sheridan left the stage after her marriage to Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

A. P.: "A brother of the Misses L. a very promising performer on the violin, also made a debut, as leader of the band, during his sister's engagements at the Oratorios. This unfortunate young man, on a visit to a former Duke of Ancaster, at his seat, Grimsthorpe Park, near Borne, in Lincolnshire, being one day with a party sailing on an extensive lake there, fell overboard, and was drowned. On recovering the body, his coat pockets were found to be filled with pebbles, from whence it was conjectured to have been a premeditated suicide; and no other reason could be assigned for it than a disappointment in love" Ladies' Monthly Museum S3 4 (September 1816) 123-24n.

Samuel Jackson Pratt wrote replies to this poem and to another reply, collected in his Miscellanies (1785). That collection includes a different poem, Mrs. Sheridan on her Brother's Lyre.

Compare another Lycidas imitation written for the occasion, A Monody (after the Manner of Milton's Lycidas) on the Death of Mr. Linley (1778). See also Verses to the Memory of my beloved Sister Maria Linley, apparently by Elizabeth, in General Evening Post (13 November 1784).



Oh Thou! whose vent'rous muse, sublimely bright,
Above heaven's concave wings her daring flight,
Spirit of Milton! once again descend,
And to my feeble muse thy succour lend.
Teach me, like thee, to mourn the hapless fate
Of a lov'd Lycidas-like thee relate
A tale so piteous, and so like thy own,
That thou again, recalling years long flown,
Shall o'er thy Lycid's tomb thy grief renew.
And think the tears that fall are friendship's due.
He too, like thee, could pour such melting strains,
As well might please the natives of the plains:
Still in the listening ear the sounds would stray,
Sweeter than oaten pipe, or Doric lay.
But when to loftier themes his soul aspir'd,
When heaven-born genius all his bosom fir'd,
Where'er in notes sublime his voice he rais'd
To sing the wonders of the God he prais'd,
The harmony divine thrill'd thro' the breast,
And every brighten'd eye his power confess'd.
In manners gentle, in affections warm,
Skill'd in each art, each power the soul to charm,
With native honours bless'd, and genuine truth,
The fire of genius, and the glow of youth,
He fell! — the parting waves clos'd o'er his head;
And murmur'd, as they clos'd, for Lycid dead.
Ah! youth belov'd! how shall I paint the grief,
Which rends the Parent's heart, and mocks relief,
Thy Sister's deep distress, and that still woe
Which fond remembrance long must cause to flow?
Vain, vain attempt! unequal flows the verse,
Which real sorrow tempts me to rehearse.
Yet will I cherish still the pleasing pain,
And bring thee, in idea, back again;
Recalling every song and note of thine,
Each social strain which thou wert wont to join:
'Till warm imagination sees thee near,
And more than mortal musick strikes my ear.
Ah, gentle spirit! how wilt thou forgive
This weakness, that would wish thee still to live?
Again to tempt the shaft which envy throws
At every heart where worth and genius glows?
Then cease complaint, and cease this mournful lay,
The faintest sorrow which my love can pay.
Farewell, my lov'd, lost Lycidas, farewell!
Still in thy Sister's memory shalt thou dwell;
And when again thy own sweet notes I sing,
Hover around me on cherubic wing,
And waft the sound to angels listening near,
For strains like thine angels shall love to hear:
Shall hear, and to their harps attune thy lays,
And join with thee to sing their Maker's praise.

[p. 608]