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Wednesday 30 October 2013

Clever quotes by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
from Memoirs of the Life of Richard 
Brinsley Sheridan by T Moore (1825)

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (30 October 1751 - 7 July 1816) was an Irish playwright and Whig MP. His most famous works include The School for Scandal and The Rivals.

Read about Richard Brinsley Sheridan's life here.

Here is a selection of quotes from Sheridan's life and works.

1. “In all undertakings which depend principally on ourselves, the surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed.” In a letter to Mr Linley (1776)1

2. “The Right Honourable gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts.”
Speech in reply to Mr Dundas in the House of Commons1

3. On 24 February 1809, Sheridan's theatre, the Drury Lane, burnt down. When his calmness was commented on by a friend who met him at the Piazza coffee house, watching his theatre burn, he is reputed to have said:

“A man may surely be allowed to take a glass of wine by his own fireside.”1

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1809
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1809
from a publication of The Critic (1897)
4. “You write with ease, to show your breeding,
     But easy writing’s vile hard reading.”2

5. “A bumper of good liquor
     Will end a contest quicker
     Than justice, judge or vicar.”3

6. “Conscience has no more to do with gallantry than it has with politics.”3

7. “I was struck all on a heap.”3

8. “You blockhead, never say more than is necessary.”4

9. “Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.”4

10. “’Tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion.”4

11. “He is the very pineapple of politeness.”4

12. “An aspersion upon my parts of speech!”4

13. “She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”4

14. “Our ancestors are very good kind of folks; but they are the last people I should choose to have a visiting acquaintance with.”4

15. “The quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands – we should only spoil it by trying to explain it.”4

16. “My valour is certainly going! – it is sneaking off! – I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!”4

17. “To smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another’s breast it to become a principal in the mischief.”5

18. “You shall see them on a beautiful quarto page where a neat rivulet of text shall meander through a meadow of margin.”5

19. Mrs Candour: “I’ll swear her colour is natural – I have seen it come and go.
Lady Teazle: “I dare swear you have, ma’am; it goes of a night and comes again in the morning.”5

20. “An unforgiving eye, and a damned disinheriting countenance!”5

21. “Tale bearers are as bad as the tale makers.”5

22. “The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous – licentious –abominable – infernal – Not that I ever read them – No – I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.”6

23. “If it is abuse, - why one is always sure to hear of it from one damned goodnatured friend or another!”6

24. “There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy!”6

25. “O Lord, Sir – when a heroine goes mad she always goes into white satin.”6

26. “The number of those who undergo the fatigue of judging for themselves is very small indeed.”6

27. “The throne we honour is the people’s choice.”7

28. “Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.”
 To a young lady.8

A pink rose

Read about Sheridan's life here.
Read about Sheridan's affair with the Duchess of Devonshire's sister, Harriet, Lady Bessborough.

Other collections of quotes:
Quotes by Lord Byron
Quotes by Beau Brummell
Quotes from Pride and Prejudice

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

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(1) From Thomas Moore’s Memoirs of the Life of RH Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1825)
(2) From Clio’s Protest (written 1771, pub 1819)
(3) From The Duenna (1775)
(4) From The Rivals (1775)
(5) From The School for Scandal (1777)
(6) From The Critic (1779)
(7) From Pizarro (1799)
(8) Attributed to Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Sources used include:
Moore, Thomas, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan 1825
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Clio's Protest (written 1771 published 1819)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, Pizarro (1799)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Critic (1779)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Duenna (1775)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The Rivals (1775)
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, The School for Scandal (1777)

Photographs by ©


  1. like the last one - has a daft charm.

    1. I do too - which is why I included it, although it is only attributed to Sheridan and not properly sourced like the others.

  2. Captain Gronow's anecdotes on Sheridan are very informative on the type of man RBS was!