Rev. Thomas Sheridan

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Rev. Thomas Sheridan

Birthdate: (51)
Birthplace: Co. Cavan, Ireland
Death: October 10, 1738 (51)
Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland
Immediate Family:

Son of James or Sir Thomas 'the Elder' Sherridan
Husband of Elizabeth Sheridan
Father of Thomas Sheridan; James Plunkett Sheridan; Elizabeth Le Fanu; Alicia Le Fanu; James Sherridan and 7 others

Managed by: Matthew Aidan Craig Balfour
Last Updated:

About Rev. Thomas Sheridan

Rev. Dr. Thomas Sheridan was born in 1687.2 He married Elizabeth MacFadden, daughter of Charles MacFadden.2 He died in 1738.2,3

    He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin University, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland.2 He graduated with a Doctor of Divinity (D.D.)3 He lived at Quilca House, County Cavan, Ireland.1

Children of Rev. Dr. Thomas Sheridan and Elizabeth MacFadden

Hester Sheridan+1 Richard Sheridan+3 Amy Sheridan3 Emily Sheridan3 Elizabeth Sheridan3 Meliora Sheridan3 Anne Sheridan3 Thomas Sheridan+2 b. 1719, d. 14 Aug 1788 James Sheridan3 b. 12 Nov 1723, d. c 19 Aug 1724

On the 10th of September 1738, Dr. Sheridan was sitting, after dinner, in the house of a friend. The conversation happening to turn on the force and direction of the wind, Sheridan said: 'Let the wind blow east, west, north, or south, the immortal soul will take its flight to the destined point;' and leaning back in his chair, instantly expired. Dr. Sheridan was the intimate friend and choice companion of Jonathan Swift; the father of 'Manager Tom,' as his son was termed in Ireland; and the grandfather of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan. He was born in the county of Cavan, about 1684, and, having completed his education at Trinity College, set up a classical school in Dublin. Entering into orders, he received the degree of D.D., and was appointed to a church-living in the south of Ireland. But by a singular act of inadvertence, he lost all chance of further preferment, by preaching a sermon on the anniversary of George I's birthday, from the text: 'Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.' On this becoming known, he was struck off the list of the Lord-Lieutenant's chaplains; parents hastened to take their children from his school; and, in short, as Swift said: 'He had killed his own fortunes by a chance-shot from an unlucky text.'

No reverse of fortune, however, could damp or discourage the high spirits of Dr. Sheridan. Such, it is said, was his perpetual flow of ready wit and humour, that it was impossible for the most splenetic man to be unhappy in his company.

When Swift, in a morbid state of disappointment, was condemned to live, as he considered it, an exile in Ireland, the companionship of Sheridan formed the great solace of his life. For one whole year they carried on a daily correspondence, and, according to previous stipulation, each letter was the unpremeditated effusion of five minutes' writing. Some of the funny nonsense thus composed, is preserved in Swift's miscellaneous works, though the greater part has fallen into merited oblivion.

Dr. Sheridan was an excellent classical scholar, and wrote a prose translation of Persius, which was published after his death. Though indolent, good-natured, careless, and not particularly strict in his own conduct, he took good care of the morals of his scholars, whom he sent to the university well grounded in classical lore, and not ill instructed in the social duties of life. He was slovenly, indigent, and cheerful, knowing books better than men, and totally ignorant of the value of money. Ill-starred, improvident, but not unhappy, he was a fiddler, punster, quibbler, and wit; and his pen and fiddle-stick were in continual notion. As might be supposed, Sheridan's house, at Quilca (bought from his eldest older brother from his theatre profits), was such as Swift has described it in the following lines; and the writer may add, that, in his youth, he often saw the menage of an Irish gentleman and scholar, to which the same description would be as justly applicable.

The Sheridans were an Irish family long established in County Cavan. Two generations before Dr. Thomas, the Reverend Denis Sheridan, a native Irish speaker had helped Bishop Bedell translate the Old Testament into Irish. Three of Denis's sons were themselves eminent: William, the Bishop of Kilmore, who lost his see when he would not take the oath of allegiance to William of Orange; Patrick, the Bishop of Cloyne; and Thomas the historian, who followed the fortunes of the Stuarts and is said to have married a natural daughter of James II. A fourth brother, James, is sometimes mentioned as the father of Dr. Thomas. However, Trinity College records indicate that Thomas's father was Patrick Sheridan of Kilmore who is listed as "colonus" or farmer. Perhaps the best, then, that can be said is that, as Percy Fitzgerald remarked, Dr. Thomas was a "near relation" of Denis Sheridan.

Drawing upon Trinity College documents, Burtchaell and Sadleir in Alumni Dublinenses note that Thomas was born in County Cavan and entered Trinity as a Pensioner or tuition-paying student on October 18, 1707, at the age of twenty. This age would put his birth in 1687, and that date seems confirmed by Sheridan himself who wrote in a letter of January 5, 1734 to Jane Oughton that be was in his forty-seventh year.3

He was an eminently able student, and in his third Year at Trinity he received one of the "Native" scholarships. He thoroughly mastered Latin and Greek, was fluent in French and Spanish, and had more than a nodding acquaintance with several other languages.

On February 9, 1710/11, he received his B.A., and around this time he married. His wife was Elizabeth MacFadden of Quilca, near Virginia in County Cavan. Elizabeth was her father's sole heir, and on his death the small property passed into Sheridan's hands. What also passed into his hands, according to Swift, were debts and relatives that had to be supported for years.

Sheridan's marriage was a disaster from the very beginning, and Swift described his wife as "the worst wife" he ever saw, "as cross as the devil, and as lazy as any of her sister sows, and as nasty," and as the most disagreeable beast in Europe":

He lets his wife (whom he pretends to hate as she deserves) govern, insult, and ruin him, as she pleases. Her character is this: Her person is detestably disagreeable; a most filthy slut; lazy, slothful, and luxurious, ill-natured, envious, suspicious; a scold, expensive on herself, covetous to others; She takes thieves and whores, for cheapness, to be her servants. and turns them off every week: Positive, insolent, and ignorant, prating, overweening fool; a lover of the dirtiest, meanest company. An abominable tater, affecting to be jealous of her husband with ladies of the best rank and merit, and merely out of affectation for perfect vanity.

This ferocious catalog was echoed by Sheridan himself as late as 1735, when he wrote to Swift:

Thus have I been linked to the Devil for twenty-four years, with a coal in my Heart, which was kindled in the first week I married her, and could never by all my industry be extinguished since. For this cause I have often been charged with peevishness and absence among my best friends. When my soul was uneasy every little thing hurt it, and therefore I could not help such wrong behavior. You were the only one who had an indulgence for me.

Or, as Sheridan mourned in 1736 to his friend, Jane Oughton, "How terrible a thing it is yt a man Should Suffer all his life, for the phrenzy of Youth. I was in the mad years of life when I marryed & mad to marry, & almost mad after I had marryd."

Despite "this hell," as he once described his unhappy domestic life, Sheridan contrived to remain for much of the time the gayest of companions and the blithest of spirits. He also had a large family. In a Latin letter to Swift, written possibly about 1732, Sheridan remarked, "Habeo novem infants et uxor." Of these nine children, two were particularly interesting. His second son Thomas became an eminent actor, theatrical manager, lexicographer, and theorist, who married the play-wright and novelist Frances Chamberlaine, and whose most notable child was the playwright Richard Brinsley. His daughter Hester, who was named after Swift's Stella, married John Knowles and her grandson was James Sheridan Knowles, the once eminent nineteenth-century dramatist and actor.

Swift found much to criticize in Sheridan's raising of his children:

Instead of breeding up his daughters to housewifery and plain clothes, be got them, at a great expense, to be like ladies who had plentiful fortunes; made them only learn to sing and dance, to draw and design, to give them rich silks and other fopperies; and his two eldest were married, without his consent, to young lads who had nothing to settle on them.

Nevertheless, Swift was godfather to Sheridan's favorite and most promising son, Thomas, and relates that Sheridan sent Thomas to Westminster School in London where the boy did well. However, "the doctor was then so poor, that he could not add fourteen pounds to enable the boy to finish the year," and so he was recalled to Dublin and matriculated at Trinity.

In the account of his father which the younger Thomas wrote in his life of Swift, there is no allusion to his father's relations with his mother, but there are other indications that Sheridan was not entirely faithful. In "'On the Five Ladies at Sot's Hole, with the Doctor at Their Head," a poem written about 1728, Swift gibes at Sheridan for regaling himself at a Dublin tavern among prostitutes:

Fair ladies, number five, Who in your merry freaks, With little Tom contrive To feast on ales and steaks. While he sits by a-grinning, To see you safe in Sot's Hole, Set up with greasy linen, And neither mugs nor pots whole. Alas! I never thought A priest would please your palate; Besides, I'll hold a groat, He'll put you in a ballad…

Whatever his attractions to other women, Sheridan's aversion to his wife remained constant, and be left his "unkind spouse" and one of his daughters who had married against his wishes only five shillings in his will (To his other children. he left £50 each. However, in a lease registered in the Deeds Office on July 26, 1746, Sheridan's surviving sons, Richard and Thomas, allowed their mother to enjoy Quilca during her life and to receive all rents and profits from it.)

Yet if Sheridan was not a good husband, he was an extremely good teacher. He was ordained by Archbishop King in January 1711/12, and James Woolley remarks that:

A bishop's license was required in order to teach, and it may be that Sheridan sought this license in 17l3, since a testimonium of his B.A. was issued to him on May 25, 1713. Before taking his M.A. in 1714, he seems to have begun his career as a teacher, in what were known as classical schools -- schools which emphasized the Latin classics and prepared boys to be gentlemen.

Swift called Sheridan "doubtless the best instructor of youth in these kingdoms, or perhaps in Europe," and certainly he was for some years….

On October 10, 1738 as Sheridan's son relates: Soon after dinner, the conversation happened to turn on the weather, and one of them observed, that the wind was easterly. The Doctor upon this said, "Let it blow East, West, North, or South, the immortal soul will: take its flight to the destined point." These were the last words he ever spoke, for he immediately sunk back in his chair, and expired without a groan, or the smallest struggle. His friends thought he had fallen asleep. and in that belief retired to the garden, that they might not disturb his repose; but on their return, after an hours walk, to their great astonishment, they found be was dead. Upon opening the body, Doctor Helsham's sagacious prognostic was discovered to be the

immediate cause of his death. I know not whether it is worth mentioning that the surgeon said he never saw so large a heart in any human body.

After Sheridan's death, his son Thomas bought his papers from the estate for £5O. He made several attempts to get him into print, the most ambitious attempt being a proposed multivolume edition to be issued by subscription. Unfortunately that project came to nothing, and so the bulk…

Rev. Dr. Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738) was the nephew of William, bishop of Kilmore, and of Thomas, the Jacobite and author; he was probably the son of James. Born in Cavan, he entered Trinity College, Dublin, 18 October 1707, aged 20 years. A noted scholar and close friend of Dean Jonathan Swift, he had a distinguished school for boys in Capel Street, Dublin. He married Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Charles MacFadden of Quilca, County Cavan, and had the following children:

1. James Plunket Sheridan(2 August 1724). He is buried in St. Mary's, Dublin.

2. Richard, of North Earls Street, Dublin. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, 14 March l731/2, aged 16 years. His will is dated 15 May 1782, proved 10 March 1787. He married Elinor and had at least five children.

3. Thomas (1719-88).

4. Elizabeth, of Camden Row, Dublin. She died November 1784, aged 70 years.

5. Anne, who married (1735) John Sheen of Custom House, Dublin.

6. Esther, who married John Knowles of Dublin.

7. Meliora.


Thomas was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1707. Celebrated as a friend of Jonathan Swift, who was the godfather to Thomas's children, and wrote Gulliver's Travels while staying at the Sheridan house in Quilca in 1724. Later, Swift wrote a humourous poem about Quilca, mocking Thomas Sheridan's pride in the place:


Let me thy Properties explain, A rotten Cabin, dropping Rain; Chimnies with Scorn rejecting Smoak; Stools, Tables, Chairs, and Bed-steds broke: Here Elements have lost their Vses, Air ripens not, nor Earth produces: In vain we make poor Sheelah toil, Fire will not roast, nor Water boil. Thro' all the Vallies, Hills, and Plains, The Goddess Want in Triumph reigns; And her chief Officers of State, Sloth, Dirt, and Theft around her wait.

Thomas Sheridan (c. 1687-1738)

A classical scholar and school master from Mullagh. He was a friend of the famous Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. Swift often stayed at Sheridan's home, Quilca House, and may have been inspired by a local farmer called Doughty, who was so strong he could carry a pony on his shoulders.

Mullagh is reputed to be the birthplace of the 7th century Saint Kilian, founder of the bishopric of Wurzburg in Bavaria. Mullagh has a claim to be one of the most literary places in Cavan. It was the home of the Sheridann family, though sadly nothing remains of their original home at Quilca. It was also the birthplace of the poet and Women's Rights campaigner Agnes Farrelly. Between Mullagh and Bailieborough is the medieval church site of Moybolgue.

Thomas ('Manager Tom') Sheridan Junior


The son of Dr Sheridan, he became a theatrical impresario in Dublin. One night a serious riot erupted after a play in his theatre, and his life was saved by a young English lady called Frances Chamberlain. They got married and returned to Quilca House Mullagh, where they established a literary and artistic salon.

Jonathan Swift spent much time with his friend Dr Thomas Sheridan of Quilca House near Mullagh. He became godfather to his children and often helped him out when he was in financial difficulties.

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Rev. Thomas Sheridan's Timeline

Co. Cavan, Ireland
Age 32
November 12, 1723
Age 36
St.Mary's Church, Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Age 37
Age 43
October 10, 1738
Age 51
Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland