Read DR. THOMAS SHERIDAN of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. V, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

was born in the county of Cavan, where his father kept a public house.  A gentleman, who had a regard for his father, and who observed the son gave early indications of genius above the common standard, sent him to the college of Dublin, and contributed towards the finishing his education there.  Our poet received very great encouragement upon his setting out in life, and was esteemed a fortunate man.  The agreeable humour, and the unreserved pleasantry of his temper, introduced him to the acquaintance, and established him in the esteem, of the wits of that age.  He set up a school in Dublin, which, at one time, was so considerable as to produce an income of a thousand pounds a year, and possessed besides some good livings, and bishops leases, which are extremely lucrative.

Mr. Sheridan married the daughter of Mr. Macpherson, a Scots gentleman, who served in the wars under King William, and, during the troubles of Ireland, became possessed of a small estate of about 40 l. per annum, called Quilca.  This little fortune devolved on Mrs. Sheridan, which enabled her husband to set up a school.  Dr. Sheridan, amongst his virtues, could not number oeconomy; on the contrary, he was remarkable for profusion and extravagance, which exposed him to such inconveniences, that he was obliged to mortgage all he had.  His school daily declined, and by an act of indiscretion, he was stript of the best living he then enjoyed.  On the birth-day of his late Majesty, the Dr. having occasion to preach, chose for his text the following words,

  Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

This procured him the name of a Jacobite, or a disaffected person, a circumstance sufficient to ruin him in his ecclesiastical capacity.  His friends, who were disposed to think favourably of him, were for softning the epithet of Jacobite into Tory, imputing his choice of that text, rather to whim and humour, than any settled prejudice against his Majesty, or the government; but this unseasonable pleasantry was not so easily passed over, and the Dr. had frequent occasion to repent the choice of his text.

Unhappy Sheridan! he lived to want both money and friends.  He spent his money and time merrily among the gay and the great, and was an example, that there are too many who can relish a man’s humour, who have not so quick a sense of his misfortunes.  The following story should not have been told, were it not true.

In the midst of his misfortunes, when the demands of his creditors obliged him to retirement, he went to dean Swift, and sollicited a lodging for a few days, ’till by a proper composition he might be restored to his freedom.  The dean retired early to rest.  The Dr. fatigued, but not inclinable to go so soon to bed, sent the servant to the dean, desiring the key of the cellar, that he might have a bottle of wine.  The dean, in one of his odd humours, returned for answer, he promised to find him a lodging, but not in wine; and refused to send the key.  The Dr. being thunderstruck at this unexpected incivility, the tears burst from his eyes; he quitted the house, and we believe never after repeated the visit.

Dr. Sheridan died in the year 1738, in the 55th year of his age.  The following epitaph for him was handed about.

  Beneath this marble stone here lies
  Poor Tom, more merry much than wise;
  Who only liv’d for two great ends,
  To spend his cash, and lose his friends: 
  His darling wife of him bereft,
  Is only griev’d there’s nothing left.

When the account of his death was inserted in the papers, it was done in the following particular terms;

’September 10, died the revd.  Dr. Thomas Sheridan of Dublin.  He was a great linguist, a most sincere friend, a delightful companion, and the best Schoolmaster in Europe:  He took the greatest care of the morals of the young gentlemen, who had the happiness of being bred up under him; and it was remarked, that none of his scholars ever was an Atheist, or a Free-Thinker.’

We cannot more successfully convey to the reader a true idea of Dr. Sheridan, than by the two following quotations from Lord Orrery in his life of Swift, in which he occasionally mentions Swift’s friend.

’Swift was naturally fond of seeing his works in print, and he was encouraged in this fondness by his friend Dr. Sheridan, who had the Cacoethea Scribendi, to the greatest degree, and was continually letting off squibs, rockets, and all sorts of little fire-works from the press; by which means he offended many particular persons, who, although they stood in awe of Swift, held Sheridan at defiance.  The truth is, the poor doctor by nature the most peacable, inoffensive man alive, was in a continual state of warfare with the Minor Poets, and they revenged themselves; or, in the style of Mr. Bays, often gave him flash for flash, and singed his feathers.  The affection between Theseus and Perithous was not greater than the affection between Swift and Sheridan:  But the friendship that cemented the two ancient heroes probably commenced upon motives very different from those which united the two modern divines.’

’Dr. Sheridan was a school-master, and in many instances, perfectly well adapted for that station.  He was deeply vers’d in the Greek and Roman languages; and in their customs and antiquities.  He had that kind of good nature, which absence of mind, indolence of body, and carelessness of fortune produce:  And although not over-strict in his own conduct, yet he took care of the morality of his scholars, whom he sent to the university, remarkably well founded in all kind of classical learning, and not ill instructed in the social duties of life.  He was slovenly, indigent, and chearful.  He knew books much better than men; And he knew the value of money least of all.  In this situation, and with this disposition, Swift fattened upon him as upon a prey, with which he intended to regale himself, whenever his appetite should prompt him.  Sheridan was therefore certainly within his reach; and the only time he was permitted to go beyond the limits of his chain, was to take possession of a living in the county of Corke, which had been bestowed upon him, by the then lord lieutenant of Ireland, the present earl of Granville.  Sheridan, in one fatal moment, or by one fatal text, effected his own ruin.  You will find the story told by Swift himself, in the fourth volume of his works [page 289. in a pamphlet intitled a Vindication of his Excellency John Lord Carteret, from the charge of favouring none but Tories, High-Churchmen, and Jacobites.] So that here I need only tell you, that this ill-starred, good-natur’d, improvident man returned to Dublin, unhinged from all favour at court, and even banished from the Castle:  But still he remained a punster, a quibbler, a fiddler, and a wit.  Not a day passed without a rebus, an anagram, or a madrigal.  His pen and his fiddle-stick were in continual motion; and yet to little or no purpose, if we may give credit to the following verses, which shall serve as the conclusion of his poetical character.’

  With music and poetry equally bless’d,
  A bard thus Apollo most humbly address’d,
  Great author of poetry, music, and light,
  Instructed by thee, I both fiddle and write: 

  Yet unheeded I scrape, or I scribble all day,
  My tunes are neglected, my verse flung away. 
  Thy substantive here, Vice Apollo disdains,
  To vouch for my numbers, or list to my strains. 
  Thy manual sign he refuses to put
  To the airs I produce from the pen, or the gut: 
  Be thou then propitious, great Phoebus, and grant
  Belief, or reward to my merit, or want,
  Tho’ the Dean and Delany transcendently shine,
  O! brighten one solo, or sonnet of mine,
  Make one work immortal, ’tis all I request;
  Apollo look’d pleas’d, and resolving to jest,
  Replied Honest friend, I’ve consider’d your case. 
  Nor dislike your unmeaning and innocent face. 
  Your petition I grant, the boon is not great,
  Your works shall continue, and here’s the receipt;
  On Roundo’s hereafter, your fiddle-strings spend. 
  Write verses in circles, they never shall end.

Dr. Sheridan gained some reputation by his Prose-translation of Persius; to which he added a Collection of the best Notes of the Editors of this intricate Satyrist, who are in the best esteem; together with many judicious Notes of his own.  This work was printed in 12mo. for A. Millar, 1739.

One of the volumes of Swift’s Miscellanies consists almost entirely of Letters between the Dean and the Dr.