The triumph of prudence over passion
by Elizabeth Sheridan
Aileen Douglas & Ian Campbell Ross, editors
Originally published in 1781, The Triumph of Prudence over Passion; or, The History of Miss Mortimer and Miss Fitzgerald is an unconventional epistolary novel set in Ireland and France in 1779 and 1780, against the background of the patriot political agitation that marked the age of Grattan’s parliament. The young women who write the bulk of the novel’s letters link the state of Ireland and the condition of its women, powerfully endorsing liberty for both. Their witty and incisive commentary on political events, male and female relations, education and national differences, is accompanied by lighter observations on fashion, polite amusements and affairs of the heart. Yet, while the novel contains several love stories, it departs strikingly from fictional convention by having its heroine refuse to marry her suitor, preferring instead to remain in a single state. The novel, published anonymously, is here attributed for the first time to Ann Elizabeth (Betsy) Sheridan, daughter of the novelist Frances Sheridan and the theatre manager and elocutionist Thomas Sheridan, and sister to the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Elizabeth Sheridan is best known as author of Betsy Sheridan’s Journal, comprising the lively letters from the 1780s written to her sister Alicia Le Fanu.