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Sheridan's Wit

Sheridan's wit was eminently brilliant, and almost always successful; it

was, like all his speaking, exceedingly prepared, but it was skilfully

introduced and happily applied; and it was well mingled, also, with

humour, occasionally descending to farce. How little it was the

inspiration of the moment all men were aware who knew his habits; but a

singular proof of this was presented to Mr. Moore, when he came to write

s life; for we there find given to the world, with a frankness which

must have almost made their author shake in his grave, the secret

note-books of this famous wit; and are thus enabled to trace the jokes,

in embryo, with which he had so often made the walls of St. Stephen's

shake, in a merriment excited by the happy appearance of sudden

unpremeditated effusion.--Lord Brougham.

Take an instance from this author, giving extracts from the common-place

book of the wit:--"He employs his fancy in his narrative, and keeps his

recollections for his wit." Again, the same idea is expanded into "When

he makes his jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis

only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his

imagination." But the thought was too good to be thus wasted on the

desert air of a common-place book. So, forth it came, at the expense of

Kelly, who, having been a composer of music, became a wine-merchant.

"You will," said the ready wit, "import your music and compose your

wine." Nor was this service exacted from the old idea thought sufficient;

so, in the House of Commons, an easy and, apparently, off-hand parenthesis

was thus filled with it, at Mr. Dundas's cost and charge, "who generally

resorts to his memory for his jokes, and to his imagination for his


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