Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Cecil Price (ed.), The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Vol. 3

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672. To the Prince of Wales

Windsor MSS. 41094–7.

Pub.: Moore, ii. 362–5.3

Dock.: R. B. Sheridan | July 23 | 1808

                                        Saturday

July 23d. 1808

Sir

It is matter of surprise to myself as well as of deep regret that I should have incurr'd the appearance of ungrateful neglect and disrespect towards the Person to whom I am most obliged on earth, to whom I feel the most ardent dutiful and affectionate attachment and in whose service I would readily sacrifice my Life—yet so it is—and to nothing but a perverse combination of circumstances, which would form but a feeble excuse were I to detail them, can I attribute a conduct so strange seemingly on my Part and from nothingpg 37 but your Royal Highness's kindness and benignity can I expect an indulgent allowance and oblivion of that conduct. Nor could I even1 hope for this were I not conscious of the unabated and unalterable devotion to your Royal Highness which lives in my heart and will ever continue to be its Pride and boast.

But I should ill deserve the indulgence I request did I not frankly state what has passed in my mind, and which tho' it may not justify must in some degree extenuate apparent neglect.

Previous to your Royal Highness having actually restored me to the office I had resign'd I was mortified and hurt in the keenest manner by having repeated to me from an authority which I then trusted some expressions of your Royal Highness's respecting me which it was impossible I could have deserved. Tho' I was most solemnly pledg'd never to reveal the source from which the communication came I did for some time intend to unburthen my mind to my most honourable and sincere Friend and your Royal Highness's most attach'd and excellent Servant, McMahon—but I suddenly discover'd beyond a doubt that I had been grossly deceived and that there had not existed the slightest foundation for the tale that had been imposed on me, and, Sir, I do humbly ask your Pardon for having for a moment credited a fiction suggested by mischief and malice.

Yet extraordinary as it may seem I had so long under that false impression neglected the course which Duty and gratitude required from me that I felt an unaccountable shyness and reserve in acknowledging and repairing my error. To this Procrastination other circumstances unluckily contributed. One day when I had the honor of accidentally meeting your Royal Highness on Horseback in Oxford St. tho' your manner was as usual gracious and kind to me, yet you said that I appear'd to have deserted you privately and politically. I had long before been assured, tho' falsely I am convinced, that your Royal Highness had promised to make a point that I should neither speak nor vote upon Lord Wellesleys case2—my view of this subject and my knowledgepg 38 of the delicate situation in which your Royal Highness stood in respect to the Catholic Question tho' perhaps inadequate motives yet encouraged the continuance of that reserve which my original error had commenced. These Topics being once pass'd (and sure I am that your Royal Highness would never deliberately have ask'd me to abase myself and forfeit all that is the worth of my public character, and all that can ever create a chance to render me useful to your Royal Highness—I mean the unpurchaseable consistency and sincerity of my political Principles) it was my hope fully and frankly to have taken that opportunity of explaining myself when I was informed that a circumstance which occurr'd at Burlington-House and which must have been heinously misrepresented had greatly offended you, and soon after it was stated to me by an authority which I have no objection to disclose that your Royal Highness had quoted with mark'd disapprobation words supposed to have been spoken by me on the Spanish Question,1 but of which words I solemnly protest I never utter'd one syllable, at the same time reserving to myself the right to say that I should not be ashamed of the sentiment if I had utter'd it, nor could your Royal Highness I am convinced have condemn'd it.

Most justly may your Royal Highness answer to all I have stated by a single question—namely why have I not sooner explain'd myself and confided in that uniform Friendship and Protection which I have so long experienced at your hands. To this I have nothing to plead but a nervous procrastinatingpg 39 nature, urged and disturbed by great and oppressive private embarrassments and a feeling of I trust no false Pride which however I will blame myself impells me involuntarily to fly from the risk of even a cold look from the quarter to which I owe so much, and by whom to be esteem'd is the glory and consolation of my private and Public Life.

One Point only remains for me to intrude on your consideration but it is of a nature fit only for personal communication and I know you will grant me that opportunity.1 As to my office in the Duchy it would be insincerity and disguise in me not to see that your Royal Highness wishes some different disposition of it—tho' my Patent is for Life the surrender shall be at your Feet tomorrow, only Sir let me implore you to respect me enough to give me credit for the scorn with which I should reject any remuneration for the sacrifice.—

You have the Truth and my Heart before you—you cannot be on half Terms with me. If I have seriously offended you, I have lost what I never will attempt to repair or recover the favour of a Prince and future Sovereign and you Sir will have lost what I trust and hope to God you may repair the next hour the service and honest devotion of a man not a professing Sycophant to your Station and Power, but a sincere and affectionate servant and Friend to your Happiness and Glory. | I have the Honor to be with | every Sentiment of gratitude and devotion | your Royal Highness's dutiful Servant |

R B Sheridan

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
3 The versions in W.T. and Moore are both from drafts.
Editor’s Note
1 Possibly 'ever'. Moore prints 'even'.
Editor’s Note
2 Wellesley-Pole (afterwards Lord Maryborough) stated in the Commons on 1 June 1808, that 'in full confidence not only of the innocence but of the highly meritorious conduct of Lord Wellesley he was ready to meet any thing [S.] had to urge however awful it may be to contend with the great talents and eloquence of [S.] matured and methodized on this question by six years' preparation'. In reply S. denied any slurs upon Wellesley's private moral character but declared he had always thought 'that noble lord betrayed too often a mischievous ambition that might be ultimately ruinous to the British interests in the East' (Hansard, 1st Ser., xi. 767–9). S. spoke at length on the Carnatic Question in the Commons on 17 June 1808. See Speeches, v. 371–6.
Editor’s Note
1 S.'s speech on Spanish affairs is summarized in Speeches, v. 368–715 but is given at greater length and in the first person in Hansard, 1st Ser., xi. 886–9. In a letter with the postmark of 16 June, Whitbread stated to Grey: 'Sheridan in concert with Canning and against the wish and advice of all his Friends has been making a bother about Spain. He did all he could to create a Cry for himself as distinguished from all of us, but He was so exceedingly drunk he could hardly articulate… .' (Grey MS.) But see, also, G. Davies, 'The Whigs and the Peninsular War', Trans, of the Royal Hist. Soc., 4th Ser., ii (1919), 114–18.
Editor’s Note
1 From this point, the text differs considerably from, and is longer than, that printed by Moore.
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