Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (30 October 1751 – 7 July 1816) was an Irish playwright and Whig statesman.

Early life

R.B. Sheridan was born in Dublin on 30 October 1751 at 12 Dorset Street, a fashionable street in the late eighteenth century. (Fellow playwright Seán O'Casey was born in Dorset Street 130 years later.) He was baptized on 4 November 1751.

His father Thomas Sheridan, an actor-manager, ran the Theatre Royal, Dublin for a time, while his mother, Frances Sheridan, was a writer, best known for her novel "The Memoirs of Sidney Biddulph". She died when her son was fifteen. The Sheridans' eldest child, Thomas, died in 1750, the year when their second son, Charles Francis (d. 1806), was born. He later carried on an affair with Henrietta Spencer, Countess of Bessborough.

Family and private life

Richard was educated at Harrow School, and was to study law. However, his highly romantic elopement with Elizabeth Linley (1754-1792; daughter of Thomas Linley), and their subsequent marriage on 13 April 1773 at St Marylebone Parish Church, put paid to such hopes; they had a son, Thomas (1775-1817).

Richard's second marriage was to Esther Jane Ogle; they also had a son, Charles Brinsley Sheridan (died 1843).

He was the grandfather of society beauty and author Caroline Norton, and the great-grandfather of Lord Dufferin, third Governor General of Canada and eighth Viceroy of India. The famous ghost story writer Sheridan le Fanu was his great-nephew.

Theatre career

When Sheridan settled in London, he began writing for the stage. His first play, "The Rivals", produced at Covent Garden in 1775, was a failure on its first night. Sheridan cast a more capable actor for the role of the comic Irishman for its second performance, and it was a smash which immediately established the young playwright's reputation. It has gone on to become a standard of English literature. But its author was plagued by writer's block and he managed only a limited output during his lifetime.

His most famous play "The School for Scandal" (Drury Lane, 8 May 1777) is considered one of the greatest comedies of manners in English. It was followed by "The Critic" (1779), an updating of the satirical Restoration play "The Rehearsal", which received a memorable revival (performed with "Oedipus" in a single evening) starring Laurence Olivier as Mr Puff, opening at the New Theatre on 18 October 1945 as part of an Old Vic Theatre Company season.

Having quickly made his name and fortune, in 1776 Sheridan bought David Garrick's share in the Drury Lane patent, and in 1778 the remaining share. His later plays were all produced there [The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, edited by Phyllis Hartnoll, OUP (1951)] . But on 24 February 1809 (despite the much vaunted fire safety precautions of 1794) the theatre burned down. On being encountered drinking a glass of wine in the street while watching the fire, Sheridan was famously reported to have said: "A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside." [ The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, OUP (1999)]


James Gillray caricatured Sheridan as a bottle of sherry, uncorked by Pitt and bursting out with puns, invective, and fibs.]

Sheridan was also a Whig politician, entering parliament in 1780 as the member for Stafford, under the sponsorship of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. A great public speaker, he remained in parliament until 1812, and was a leading figure in the party.

He held the posts of Receiver-General of the Duchy of Cornwall (1804–1807) and Treasurer of the Navy (1806–1807).

In December 1815 he became ill, largely confined to bed. Sheridan died in poverty, and was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey; his funeral was attended by dukes, earls, lords, viscounts, the Lord Mayor of London, and other notables.


*"The Rivals" (first acted 17 January 1775)
*"St Patrick's Day" (first acted 2 May 1775)
*"The Duenna" (first acted 21 November 1775)
*"A Trip to Scarborough" (first acted 24 February 1777)
*"The School for Scandal" (first acted 8 May 1777)
*"The Camp" (first acted 15 October 1778)
*"The Critic" (first acted 30 October 1779)
*"The Glorious First of June" (first acted 2 July 1794)
*"Pizarro" (first acted 24 May 1799)

He also wrote a selection of poems, and political speeches for his time in parliament.


*Lee, Sidney. "Sheridan, Richard Brinsley" "Dictionary of National Biography." Vol. LII, London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1897. (pp. 78-85) Retrieved March 2, 2008
* [ Richard Brinsley Sheridan] Retrieved March 2, 2008

External links

* Information about Sheridan's life and works, with a comprehensive bibliography, at [] .
* Full text of Thomas Moore's "Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honorable Richard Brinsley Sheridan", [ Vol. 1] , [ Vol. 2]

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