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Mr Sheridan’s Umbrella

Author: L.A.G. Strong
Series: Puffin Story Book
Published: Harmondsworth
Physical Description: 172p.
Notes: This book is of importance within the Puffin Story Book series as it is aimed at a slightly older audience than some of the books in the series and features quite complex plotlines. Leonard Alfred George Strong’s partly Irish heritage has been noted as influential in his writing (Hudson): in this book, the plot centres on the Irish playwright and politician, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), son of Thomas Sheridan, who was manager of Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin and an author. Richard Sheridan was active politically from 1780 to the early-19th century, and was notable for his struggles for ‘the preservation of civil, political and religious liberties in the face of an alarming increase of executive power’, in addition to his eloquence and wit (Sturgeon). A degree of this opposition to social and political norms is present in Mr Sheridan’s Umbrella, as the main plot centres on Sheridan’s drawing of a caricature of a member of the royal family, while at a party in Brighton, and which later goes missing. The action begins when two young men who have befriended Sheridan, local Will Maitland, whose father runs an umbrella factory, and young Irish man Colin Egan, an actor who wishes to gain favour with Sheridan, decide they will find the drawing to save Sheridan from trouble. Various adventures occur on this quest, and one notable moment sees the boys present at the burning down of Sheridan’s Drury Lane Theatre, which was to financially ruin Sheridan. Alongside this narrative thread, another subplot unfolds. Will’s father entrusts him with looking after his umbrella factory for a time, and during this period Will discovers an employee is dealing in illegally imported silk linked to a local smuggler’s cave. However, this remains a background issue throughout. The whereabouts of the missing caricature is finally revealed in the final chapter. An employee at the umbrella factory named Israel, who is briefly introduced early in the text as a part-exoticised, part-maligned, but talented carver (19), fashions a head for an umbrella bearing an exact likeness to the caricature created by Sheridan. Though certain characters, such as Will’s father, appear to at least overtly condemn the creation of such ‘blasphemous’ caricatures (166), Will gifts the umbrella to Sheridan and the text ends with the ambiguity maintained throughout.
[Ciara Gallagher].
Hudson, Derek. “Strong, Leonard Alfred George (1896–1958).” rev. M. Clare Loughlin-Chow. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Web. 4 Feb. 2015[]
Sturgeon, Sineád. “Sheridan, Richard Brinsley”, Irish Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. James McGuire and James Quinn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Web. 4 Feb. 2015 [].
Subject: Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Regency Period, Historical Fiction, Playwright, Politics, London, Brighton, Gender, Genre, Age of Reader, Royal Family, Theatre, Smuggling.
Language: English
Original price: One shilling and sixpence
Library: Church of Ireland College of Education
Collection: Bartlett Puffin Collection - CICE