Friday, 2 June 2017

Bath and Sheridan’s Elopement!

Bath has had its fair share of famous faces throughout the years, but while Jane Austen’s time in Bath has gone down in history, another writer, Richard Sheridan, had a rather remarkable time in the city as well…

Richard Sheridan found his time in Bath to be life-changing, because it was in Bath that he met and fell in love with the woman who he stole away to France and later married…

On the 18th of March 1772 Sheridan helped Elizabeth Linley to run away from her family home to escape the amorous advances of Captain Mathews – a man who would not take no for an answer. Sheridan promised to escort Eliza to France to a convent. However, while on the journey he admitted that he was in love with her. Sheridan and Eliza eloped and married near Calais, but as both were underage they kept their marriage a secret and Eliza entered a convent in Lille for the time being. Unfortunately, her father learnt where she was and came to take her home.

With the marriage still a secret, Sheridan followed her back to Bath and asked for Eliza’s hand in marriage from her father. He was underage and not rich. Sheridan’s father and Eliza’s father both agreed that the couple should be separated. The couple did not agree.

It was a courtship of many months, conducted against the wishes of both sets of parents, but Sheridan persisted. By October 1772 Sheridan had come of age (21) and went to ask for Eliza’s hand once more. Once more he was denied. He decided to ask Eliza’s father every day for her hand in marriage and watched her perform in the evenings (she and her sister were successful oratorio singers) and disguised himself as a coachman so he could escort her back to her lodgings. 

This lasted for months until, with Eliza threatening to take her own life if she was not allowed to marry Richard, her father agreed to the wedding, and the couple were married on the 13th of April 1773. 

Quite a courtship!

Now to the reason that Sheridan is the subject of our blog post this week.

William Beckford lived in Bath from 1822 until his death in 1844, and was a patron of the arts, a
critic, a writer, and at one stage was said to be the richest commoner in England. We mention Beckford in this blog about Sheridan in Bath because Beckford’s Tower and Museum hosts a quarterly book group which explores writings that are (loosely) related to the work of William Beckford. The work which is the topic of the next book group meeting, taking place on this Thursday (8th June 2017 at 7pm), is Richard Sheridan’s play The Rivals.

The Beckford book group is open to anyone and everyone (even those who haven’t read the book (or in this case, play)); all that you need is to pay £5 on the door, and “to be interested in enjoying an evening of talks from experts, interesting discussions, tea, coffee (maybe wine).”  

“At the Beckford Book Group you can, as always, look forward to lovely discussion, drinks, nibbles and our now-traditional themed cakes.” Cake. A night of amateur theatrics, sounds good to us. 

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