This sort of thing happened once more, in the same year, at Brocket. On this occasion Sheridan pursued his victim into the nursery, and threw himself on his knees. It gave Lady Bessborough an opportunity which even she could not fail to perceive—and she used it. “I interrupted the most animated professions by showing him the child and asking him if his grandchildren were as pretty as mine. He jump’d up, but with such fury in his looks that I was really frighten’d...” And that may very well be the end: solvuntur tabulae risu. Lord Granville Gower married in 1809, and the confidential correspondence died the death; but Sheridan lingered until 1816, and actually carried on his desperate pursuit within three days of the end. She visited him, and described what took place to Lord Broughton. He assured her, she said, that he should visit her after his death. She asked, “Why, having persecuted her all her life, would he now carry it into death?’ ‘Because I am resolved you shall remember me.’"[A] The story of his telling her that his eyes would see her through the coffin-lid is well known, and may be apocryphal; but the melodrama is Sheridan all over.
[Footnote A: Mr. Sichel, in his monumental book on Sheridan, doubts the lady’s memory, one of his grounds of doubt being that Sheridan “would not have been likely to have thus behaved before his wife.” But Mr. Sichel did not then know what Sheridan was capable of doing before his wife.]
Curiosity rather than edification is served by the publication of such frank revelations as Lady Bessborough’s, but that is a matter for her descendants, and was probably considered. What relates to Sheridan is quite another thing. On his death Byron hailed him with eloquent if extravagant praise; he was buried in Westminster Abbey; three long biographies have been written round him, not one of which has failed to do justice to his abilities, and not one pointed out the extent of his moral aberration. Mr. Sichel, the latest of them, says that “he had pursued his own path and spurned the little arts of those who twitted him with roguery.” But if the Granville Gower correspondence is to be believed—and how can it not—he was either a very bad rogue or a madman. Sheridan, after all’s said, made a great figure in his day, and must stand the racket of it, so to speak. Gossip about Harriet may be left to the idle; but Sheridan belongs to History.