Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bad Luck O'The Irish

A belated happy St. Patrick's Day to you all, and, in honor of this, here is another historical tidbit about one famous Irish playwright (all the famous British playwrights, save Shakespeare, seem to be Irish, though this Amateur Historian could not tell you why the Blarney Stone proves so inspirational to stage dramas), Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Sheridan, portrayed as a dynamic figure by Reynolds, to the left, was an infamous womanizer. This caused his first wife Elizabeth Linley, portrayed as such a natural beauty she seems part of her surroundings by Gainsborough, to the right, considerable pain. The fact that Elizabeth was considered one of the finest singers and most beautiful women of the late 18th century did not seem to stop Sheridan. Though affairs were common and acceptable as long as they were discreet, Sheridan had a bad habit of being caught in flagrante. The woman Sheridan appears to have loved the most devotedly, Harriet Spenser Bessborough, Lady Duncannon, was caught with Sheridan by her husband, who then attempted to introduce divorce proceedings. Considering that Lord Duncannon did not notice when his wife was pregnant with Lord Granville Leveson-Gower's children later on does not speak to Lord Duncannon's powers of observation or to Sheridan's discretion.

Soon after being caught out, Lady Duncannon, terrified of the social ostracism brought on by divorce, ended the affair. Sheridan returned to his wife, who was staying with friends at Crewe Hall, and begged forgiveness. Sheridan seems to have had luck as bad as his judgment, as Mrs. Sheridan wrote a few days later:

"Can you believe it possible that at the very time when Sheridan was pleading for forgiveness from me on this account, before it was certain that it would be hushed up, at the moment almost in which he was swearing and imprecating all sorts of curses on himself on me and his child, if ever he was led away by any motive to be false to me again, he threw the whole family at Crewe into confusion and distress by playing the fool with Miss FD [the governess] and contriving so awkwardly too, as to be discovered by the whole house, locked up with her in a bed chamber in an unfrequented part of the house."

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! I've been studying these paintings in Art History recently, and it's fun to know the story behind the figures the artist painted.