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Sheridan's Wit

Sheridan's wit was eminently brilliant, and almost always successful; it
was, like all his speaking, exceedingly prepared, but it was skilfully
introduced and happily applied; and it was well mingled, also, with
humour, occasionally descending to farce. How little it was the
inspiration of the moment all men were aware who knew his habits; but a
singular proof of this was presented to Mr. Moore, when he came to write
his life; for we there find given to the world, with a frankness which
must have almost made their author shake in his grave, the secret
note-books of this famous wit; and are thus enabled to trace the jokes,
in embryo, with which he had so often made the walls of St. Stephen's
shake, in a merriment excited by the happy appearance of sudden
unpremeditated effusion.--Lord Brougham.

Take an instance from this author, giving extracts from the common-place
book of the wit:--"He employs his fancy in his narrative, and keeps his
recollections for his wit." Again, the same idea is expanded into "When
he makes his jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis
only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his
imagination." But the thought was too good to be thus wasted on the
desert air of a common-place book. So, forth it came, at the expense of
Kelly, who, having been a composer of music, became a wine-merchant.
"You will," said the ready wit, "import your music and compose your
wine." Nor was this service exacted from the old idea thought sufficient;
so, in the House of Commons, an easy and, apparently, off-hand parenthesis
was thus filled with it, at Mr. Dundas's cost and charge, "who generally
resorts to his memory for his jokes, and to his imagination for his

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