Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sheridan, Charles Francis

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SHERIDAN, CHARLES FRANCIS (1750–1806), author and politician, second son of Thomas Sheridan (1719–1788) [q. v.], was born in June 1750 at 12 Dorset Street, Dublin. He was chiefly educated at home by his father. When seven years old he attended Samuel Whyte's school for a few weeks after it was opened, along with his younger brother, Richard Brinsley [q. v.], and his sister Alicia, who were aged six and four respectively. Several other children were sent to the school for a short time in order, as Miss Lefanu writes, ‘to promote the success of the undertaking’ (Memoirs of Mrs. Frances Sheridan, p. 83). His father destined him to be a model orator and to exemplify his method of teaching elocution, and his mother informed a friend in Dublin how her son, when a boy of twelve, ‘exhibited himself as a little orator’ (Memoirs of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, ed. Watkins, i. 161). In May 1772 he was appointed secretary to the British envoy in Sweden, remaining there about three years. He wrote ‘A History of the late Revolution in Sweden’ (London, 1778, 8vo), in which he gave a narrative of his experience as an eye-witness. The book attracted some attention, and a French translation of it appeared in 1783 in London (Brunet, vi. 1560).

After keeping terms at Lincoln's Inn and in Dublin, he was called to the Irish bar in 1780, being then a member of the Irish parliament, to which he was returned for Belturbet in 1776. At the general election in 1783 he was returned for the borough of Rathcormack. When his brother, Richard Brinsley, became under-secretary for foreign affairs in the second Rockingham administration, he procured for Charles Francis the office of secretary at war in Dublin, the appointment being made on 6 June 1782. He held this office till 1789, when he retired, and on 8 Aug. in that year the king gave him a pension of 1,000l., being the equivalent of his salary when in office.

Sheridan did not make his mark as a speaker during the quarter of a century that he was a member of parliament in Ireland. He wrote several pamphlets which fell flat, though the matter and purport had much to commend them to public notice. ‘Observations,’ published at Dublin in 1779, related to the right of Ireland to legislate for herself in opposition to the doctrine enunciated by Sir William Blackstone that, when the sovereign legislative power named in an act of parliament any of the dominions subordinate to it, such dominion was bound by the act. An ‘Essay on the true Principles of Civil Liberty and Free Government’ was published in 1793.

Though pensioned on his retirement from office, at the early age of thirty-nine, Sheridan did not rest satisfied till his wife was provided for by the country, and a pension of 300l. was granted to her by king's letter on 23 Nov. 1796. He spent the last ten years of his life in futile experiments in chemistry and mechanics, and attempts to discover perpetual motion. He visited London to read papers on his researches and fancied discoveries before learned societies, but he made no converts and found no encouragement. His health was not good, despite the sobriety of his life, and he died at Tunbridge Wells on 24 June 1806. He married, in the spring of 1783, Letitia Christiana, daughter of Theophilus Bolton of Molesworth Street, Dublin. She survived him with several children.

[Gent. Mag. 1806, p. 679. Several of the facts in this notice have been supplied by the representatives of the Sheridan family.]

F. R.