Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Class Clown...

On this day...Irish playwright, poet and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan died in 1816, at the age of 64. Born in Dublin to parents both active in the theatre business, Sheridan moved to England at the age of seven and attended the independent Harrow School. The most significant event of his early life however, was not of literary importance, rather, it was two duels fought against Captain Matthews, who had defamed Sheridan's wife-to-be in a newspaper article.

Having barely escaped with his life, Sheridan set up a house in London and began writing for the stage, opening with the play, 'The Rivals'. Although a failure on its first performance, a change of actor ensured that its second was an immediate success, and following another profitable composition, 'The Duenna', Sheridan was able to buy complete ownership of the Drury Lane Theatre. It was there that some of his most famous plays, such as 'The School for Scandal' and 'The Critic', made their debut. At the same time, Sheridan was vigourously engaging in parliamentary work, yet things cam to a head in 1809, when his theatre burnt down. Three years later, he failed to gain re-election after 32 years, and he died in poverty after contracting an illness. Sheridan is buried in Poets' Corner.

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