The Political Work of Richard Brinsley Sheridan


Passionate Politicians: Parliament, Print and Theatre in the Age of Sheridan and Austen (Conference)

15-16 March 2018, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution

Georgian Bath was a meeting place, a place for recreation and, sometimes, contestation. Politicians retreated to the city to recover from misfortune and to plan their restoration, as did generals, admirals, and members of the beau monde. Bath was also the launching pad for successful careers, none more spectacular than that of Sheridan.

Sheridan fought duels in the city, published his first satires in the Bath Chronicle, and set his first comedy, The Rivals, amongst its parades. During the last years of his life he was an avid reader of Jane Austen, perhaps recognising in her works some strain of his own earlier efforts.

Austen certainly exploited the same Bath locations that Sheridan had used and would have recognised. These connections make Bath a particularly fitting location for a conference which aims to examine the literary, political and theatrical world of the late eighteenth century.

This conference aimed to place Sheridan’s career and that of his contemporaries in its broader cultural, social and literary context. Potential topics included his literary and theatrical worlds; his political and oratorical contributions, some of which had a powerful emotional dimension; his intimate relationship with the media, and his role as one of the ‘celebrities’ of the Georgian era. 

Truth, Lies and Fake News: the Records of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's Parliamentary Speeches, 1780-1812 (Talk)

4 January 2018, St Hugh's College (University of Oxford)

Dr Rachel Wilson gave this talk as part of the annual conference of the British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies.

Sheridan, Staffordshire and Ireland: Trading Loyalties (Talk)

06 May 2017, Entrust Education

Professor Robert W. Jones gave this talk as part of Staffordshire History Day. The event, for which he was the keynote speaker, was organised by Staffordshire Archives and Heritage in conjunction with Keele University and the Centre for West Midlands History at the University of Birmingham.

The Parliamentary Voice: Experiencing the Speeches of Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the House of Commons (Talk)

21 March 2017, University of Leeds

Dr Rachel Wilson gave this talk as part of the University of Leeds’ Eighteenth Century and Romantic Seminar Series.

Stafford's Radical MP: Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Satirist, Playwright and Orator (Public study day)

18 March 2017, Staffordshire Record Office

Professor Robert W. Jones, Professor Martyn J. Powell, and Dr Rachel Wilson each gave talks at this event. Professor Jones spoke on ‘Introducing Sheridan: Celebrity, Theatre and Politics’, Professor Powell spoke on ‘Recognising Sheridan: Drink, Debt and Print Satire’, and Dr Wilson spoke on ‘The Parliamentary Voice: Experiencing Sheridan in the House of Commons’. 

Attendees had the opportunity to view an original manuscript of one of Sheridan's speeches held at the Record Office. The day also included an interactive workshop during which participants viewed facsimile newspaper reports of a Sheridan speech from April 1798 and listened to a podcast of the same speech (available for download here) in order to better understand the challenges faced when studying and editing such material.

Sheridan, Politics, and Drama in Stafford (Talk)

27 June 2016, Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

Professor Robert W. Jones gave this talk to the Stafford Gatehouse Youth Theatre Group, who then worked with artist Lauren Van Helmond to produce diorama representing Sheridan’s diverse political and social activities in Stafford. Lauren then produced her own art work, building on the contributions of the Theatre Group. All the work was displaced at the Shire Hall Gallery, Stafford during the town’s Sheridan weekend (8-9 July 2016), which coincided with the bicentenary of Sheridan’s death.

Sheridan, Theatre and Public Opinion (Conference/workshop)

17–18 June 2016, Centre of Eighteenth-Century Studies (University of York)

Professor Robert W. Jones and Professor Martyn J. Powell both gave papers at this event in the session ‘Sheridan in Parliament: The Speeches and their Performance’, explaining the nature and extent of this project, its potential and the problems that might lie ahead. Other delegates, including Gillian Russell, David O’Shaughnessy, David Francis Taylor, Anna Fitzer, and Daniel O’Quinn, spoke on several aspects of Sheridan’s career, his political and family connections, and the practice of the theatre making.

Defining Sheridan (Symposium)

10 April 2013, Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute (University of Leeds)

This symposium brought together colleagues with an established interest in Sheridan or who are expert in British and Irish literature, theatre and political history. In addition to a programme of talks, the event included a discussion with attendees on how Sheridan’s legacy might be conveyed beyond the academy.

Also under discussion was the task of defining, exploring and presenting Sheridan’s ‘political work’, especially its limits and bounds. Key questions included, for example, whether to include theatre, journalism, subversion of the press, or speeches beyond parliament, and if so how these might be recovered. This helped us to define the scope of the project, especially the edition.

The programme of talks was as follows:

  • David Francis Taylor (University of Toronto) - ‘Sheridan and the Political Media’
  • David O’Shaughnessy (Trinity College, Dublin) - ‘Delineating a Theatre of Opposition: Sheridan and Other Irish Playwrights of the 1780s’
  • Martyn Powell (Aberystwyth University) - ‘Sheridan, Print Culture and Anglo-Irish Politics’
  • Dafydd Moore (Plymouth University) - ‘“The Secret Springs of Complicated Events”: John Watkins and his World’
  • Robert Jones (University of Leeds) - ‘The Death of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’