Biography Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

photo of Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  • Time Period1751 - 1816
  • Place
  • CountryIreland

Poet Biography

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, third son of Thomas and Frances Sheridan, was born in Dublin.
At the age of eleven he was sent to Harrow school. Sheridan was extremely popular at school. He left Harrow at the age of seventeen, and was placed under the care of a tutor. He was also trained by his father in daily elocution, and put through a course of English reading. He had fencing and riding lessons at Angelo's. He kept up correspondence with his school friend N.B Halhed and they published in 1771 metrical translations of Aristaenetus.
The removal of the family to Bath in 1770-1771 led to an acquaintance with the daughters of the composer Thomas Linley. Thomas Linley's elder daughter, Elizabeth Ann fell in love with Sheridan, The couple married in secret but her father did not allow Sheridan to meet his daighter as he did not consider him an eligible suitor. Sheridan also fought two duels with another suitor of Elizabeth's, a Major Matthews.
Sheridan was sent to Waltham Abbey, in Essex, to continue his studies, especially in mathematics. He was entered at the Middle Temple on the 6th of April 1773, and a week later he was openly married to Miss Linley.
His first comedy, The Rivals, was produced at Covent Garden on 17th January, 1775. His second piece, St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant, a lively farce. In February 1777 he produced his version of Vanbrugh's Relapse, under the title of A Trip to Scarborough. His chief task was to remove indecencies; he added very little to the dialogue and though it is printed among his work he has no title to it.
The School for Scandal was produced on the 8th of May 1777. The School for Scandal, though it has not the unity of The Rivals, nor the same wealth of broadly humorous incident, is universally regarded as Sheridan's masterpiece.
Sheridan's farce, The Critic, was produced on the 29th of October 1779.
It seems that he had accumulated notes for another comedy to be called Affectation, but his only dramatic composition during the remaining thirty-six years of his life was Pizarro, produced in 1799 -- a tragedy in which he made liberal use of some of the arts ridiculed in the person of Mr. Puff. He also revised for the stage Benjamin Thompson's translation, The Stranger, of Kotzebue's Menschenhass und Reue.

He entered parliament for Stafford in 1780, as the friend and ally of Charles James Fox.
Under the wing of Fox he filled subordinate offices in the short-lived ministries of 1782 and 1783. He was under-secretary for foreign affairs in the Rockingham ministry, and a secretary of the treasury in the Coalition ministry.

His last years were harassed by debt and disappointment. He sat in parliament for Westminster in 1806-1807. At the general election of 1807 he stood again for Westminster and was defeated, but was returned as member for Ilchester, at the expense, apparently, of the prince of Wales. In 1812 he failed to secure a seat at Stafford. He could not raise money enough to buy the seat. He had quarrelled with the Prince Regent, and seems to have had none but obscure friends to stand by him. As a member of parliament he had been safe against arrest for debt, but now that this protection was lost his creditors closed in upon him, and the history of his life from this time till his death in 1816 is one of the most painful passages in the biography of great men.