Sheridan, Frances (1724–1766)

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Sheridan, Frances (1724–1766)

Irish novelist and dramatist. Born Frances Chamberlaine in Dublin, Ireland, in 1724; died in Blois, France, on September 26, 1766; youngest of five children of Philip Chamberlaine (an Irish cleric) and Anastasia Whyte; married Thomas Sheridan (a well-known actor-manager), in 1747; children: three sons, including Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816, Irish dramatist and parliamentary orator), and three daughters, including writers Alicia Lefanu (1753–1817) and Elizabeth Lefanu (1758–1837).

Frances Sheridan was born Frances Chamberlaine in Dublin in 1724, the youngest of five children of Philip Chamberlaine, a cleric, and Anastasia Whyte , who died shortly after her birth. Frances was raised by a father who did not believe women should be taught how to write, though he reluctantly allowed her to learn how to read. Then, her older brothers took her in hand and secretly taught her writing, Latin, and botany. By age 15, Frances had written a romance and two sermons. She met and married actor-manager Thomas Sheridan and raised six children, including the famous Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

At the urging of her friend Samuel Richardson, Frances Sheridan published the highly successful Memoirs of Miss Sidney Biddulph in 1761. She also wrote the play The Discovery, which starred her husband and David Garrick and later become a stock piece for Garrick. The Dupe, starring Kitty Clive in the 1763–64 season at Drury Lane, was less successful. When financial problems forced the Sheridans to move to Blois, France, Frances continued to write, including the novel A Trip to Bath, completed one year before her sudden death in 1766. The book, finally published in 1902, was discovered to contain an antecedent to her son's famous character Mrs. Malaprop in his play The Rivals. An Oriental tale, Nourjahad, was also published posthumously. Frances Sheridan's memoirs were printed by her novelist granddaughter Alicia Lefanu (c. 1795–c. 1826) in London in 1824.