Richard Brinsley Sheridan 1751–1816

  • Ian McGowan
Part of the St. Martin’s Anthologies of English Literature book series (AEL)


The son of an Irish actor, Sheridan was educated in England. His elopement with the singer, Eliza Linley, whom he eventually married, and duels with another suitor, provided hints for The Rivals, a great success at Covent Garden in 1775. It was followed by St Patrick’s Day and The Duenna. He bought Garrick’s half-share in the Drury Lane Theatre, which he ran, eventually as sole owner. The School for Scandal (1777) is one of the century’s great comedies, and made a fortune; the burlesque rehearsal-play The Critic (1779) shows his awareness of theatrical absurdities. He became a member of Johnson’s Club. His later career was mainly devoted to politics: a supporter of Fox and friend of the future George IV, he held various government offices and was a spectacular parliamentary orator, leading the impeachment of Warren Hastings for corruption in India. Financial difficulties followed the demolition of Drury Lane and the burning-down of its successor (1809); his last years were spent mainly in poverty.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc. 1989

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  • Ian McGowan

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