In 1813 Lord Byron, discussing the elderly Richard Brinsley Sheridan with some friends, gave his opinion that

Whatever Sheridan has done or chooses to do has been, par exellence, the best of its kind. He has written the best comedy (School for Scandal), the best drama (The Duenna, to my mind far beyond that St Giles lampoon, The Beggar’s Opera), the best farce (The Critic—it is only too good for a farce), and the best address (Monologue on Garrick); and, to crown all, delivered the very best oration (the famous Begum speech) ever conceived or heard in this country.

It is true that Sheridan was a man of extraordinary talent, abilities, and energy. He had two separate and very successful careers: a literary one—upon which his reputation rests today—that lasted, incredibly enough, only until he was thirty; and a political one, to which he personally...


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