Home  »  The World’s Wit and Humor  »  Anecdotes

The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)


SHERIDAN said to a tailor who asked him at least for the interest of his bill, “It is not my interest to pay the principal, nor my principle to pay the interest.”

Sheridan made his appearance one day in a pair of new boots. These attracting the notice of some of his friends, “Now guess,” said he, “how I came by these boots.” Many guesses then took place. “No,” said Sheridan, “no, you’ve not hit it, nor ever will. I bought them, and paid for them!”

At a party, one evening, the conversation turned upon young men’s allowance at college. Sheridan’s father lamented the ill-judged parsimony of many parents in that respect. “I am sure, Dick,” said he, “you need not complain; I always allowed you eight hundred a year.” “Yes, father, I must confess you allowed it; but then it was never paid.”

Thomas Sheridan bought a gallon of gin to take home, and, by way of a label, wrote his name upon a card, which happened to be the seven of clubs, and tied it to the handle. His son Richard observing the jug, quietly remarked, “That’s an awfully careless way to leave that liquor!” “Why?” “Because someone might come along with the eight of clubs and take it.”

Sheridan, being on a parliamentary committee, one day entered the room as all the other members were seated and ready to commence business. Perceiving no empty seat, he bowed, and, looking round the table with a droll expression of countenance, said, “Will any gentleman move that I may take the chair?”

Burke, in the course of a debate in the House of Commons in 1793, drew a dagger from his breast and threw it upon the floor of the house, saying, “That is what you are to obtain from an alliance with France.” “The gentleman has brought his knife,” exclaimed Sheridan, “but where is the fork?”

Being asked whether he thought Mr. O’Brien was right in his assertion that many thousands of the electors of Westminster would vote for the Duke of Northumberland’s porter, were he put up, Sheridan coolly replied, “No, my friend; O’Brien is wrong. But they might vote for Mr. Whitbread’s porter.”

Sheridan was down at Brighton, one summer, when Fox, the manager, desirous of showing him some civility, took him all over the theatre and exhibited its beauties. “There, Mr. Sheridan!” said Fox, who combined twenty occupations without being clever in one, “I built and painted all these boxes, and I painted all these scenes.” “Did you?” said Sheridan, surveying them rapidly; “well, I should not, I am sure, have known you were a Fox by your brush.”

“Now, gentlemen,” said Sheridan to his guests, as the ladies left the room, “let us understand each other. Are we to drink like men or beasts?” Somewhat indignant, the guests exclaimed, “Like men of course!” “Then,” he replied, “we are going to get jolly drunk, for brutes never drink more than they want.”

Once, when charged with inconsistency, Sheridan retorted that the accusation reminded him of the reasoning of the entertainer of a convivial party, who, hearing his friends observe that it was time to take leave, as the watchman was crying, “Past three,” said, “Why, you don’t mind that fellow, do you? He’s the most inconsistent fellow out. Why, he changes his story every half-hour.”

Sheridan was dining with Lord Thurlow, when he produced some admirable Constantia, which had been sent him from the Cape of Good Hope. The wine tickled the palate of Sheridan, who saw the bottle emptied with uncommon regret, and set his wits to work to get another. The old Chancellor was not to be so easily induced to produce his rare Cape in such profusion, and foiled all Sheridan’s attempts to get another glass. Sheridan, being piqued, and seeing the inutility of persecuting the immovable pillar of the law, turned toward a gentleman sitting farther down, and said, “Sir, pass me up that decanter, for I must return to Madeira, since I cannot double the Cape.”