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The Sheridans: A Dramatic Family Life
by Alan Chedzoy

Alan Chedzoy's recent book The Sheridans: A Dramatic Family Life, may be of particular interest to members of the Barnes Society because they were among the poet's earliest patrons.

They were descended from the dramatist, Richard Brinsley Sheridan,author of The Rivals and The School for Scandal and other plays. They were very proud of this fact and, in the early 19th Century, their home at Frampton Court, just a few miles from Dorchester, became something of a museum to the great man, with portraits and mementos of him.

The first Sheridan to own the Frampton estate was the dramatist's grandson, also named Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He came into the property after eloping with the heiress. Together, he and his wife, Marcia, entertained Barnes and did their best to promote the sales of his books. In later years, Hardy was a friend of another Sheridan wife, Mary Motley, daughter of the distinguished American historian and diplomat, John Lothrop Motley.

There was a curse on Frampton Court, proclaiming that the eldest son would never inherit. In the early 20th Century the squire, Algernon Sheridan, ran out of money and when he died, the heirs could not pay the death-duties. Frampton Court, therefore, was demolished in 1932-4. The story of how the last heir, a sixteen year old boy, also named Richard Brinsley Sheridan, tried unsuccessfully to prevent this by sailing from Algeria with a collection of Sheridan's manuscripts, is an extraordinary one and not widely known. But he failed and the curse was fulfilled.

Few families have achieved more in both cultural and political life than the Sheridans. The book begins with their beginnings in the Dublin and London theatres. Over the years, they numbered among them a formidable actor-manager, a dramatic genius, a famous soprano. a campaigner for women's rights, and a sculptor and notorious newspaper columnist. They knew many of the most celebrated name so their times from Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson, to Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill. Often involved in theatre riots, duels, elopements and political scandals, at time their lives appeared to be re-playing the comedies of their famous ancestor.

It will be the later section of the book, however, that may be of greatest interest to Barnes lovers. For it recounts not only the family's connection with the poet, but an important and relatively unknown strand of the Dorset of his time.

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