Life and Background
Like other playwrights whose names are inseparable from English comedy, such as William Congreve, George Farquhar and Oscar Wilde, Richard Brinsley Sheridan in fact came from Irish stock. His grandfather, Thomas, was a Doctor of Divinity and a friend of Dean Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels. Although not rich, Thomas aimed at a gentle, even noble way of life for his household, and the rectory where he lived was in his eyes a veritable mansion; he passed on this ambition for gentility to succeeding generations. Swift said of his friend, with whom he enjoyed a quarrelsome if jocular relationship, that he was ‘a generous, honest, good-natured man, but that his perpetual want of discretion and judgement made him act as if he were neither generous, honest nor good-natured’. He could have made the same remark about his godson, Richard’s father who was also called Thomas, and just as appropriately about Richard himself.
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