Sheridan, Charles Francis (1750–1806), writer and politician, was born June 1750 in Dorset St., Dublin, elder son among two sons and two daughters of Thomas Sheridan (qv), manager of Smock Alley Theatre, and Frances Sheridan (née Chamberlaine). Educated at home by his father, in 1754 he moved to live in London with his parents after a riot in the theatre; the other children, including his younger brother, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (qv), were left in Dublin in the care of a nurse. In 1757 the family returned to Ireland, and he briefly attended the new school of Samuel Whyte (qv) on Grafton St., before the entire family moved to England permanently. In 1762 Richard was sent to Harrow, but Charles remained at home – his parents believed that his quiet nature was more suited to a private education. His father had pretensions to being a great teacher of rhetoric and elocution and wanted his favourite son to be a distinguished orator. From an early age Charles was trained in speaking and in 1762 he gave a public performance of a speech from Milton's ‘Paradise lost’ to showcase his father's ability as a teacher. Ironically it was the neglected Richard who proved to be the brilliant orator in the family, and Charles never made an impression as a speaker in adulthood. Richard's play ‘The school for scandal’ satirised his relationship with Charles, in the character of the pompous elder brother, Joseph Surface.
In May 1772 Charles was named secretary to the British envoy in Sweden, and he arrived just as a coup d'état was bringing Gustavus III to power. He spent three years there and afterwards wrote A history of the late revolution in Sweden (1778), which was well received and translated into French. Returning to England, he entered Lincoln's Inn in May 1775 and was called to the bar (1780); he acted as counsel for the barrack board. A political career beckoned for Sheridan, and his father had great hopes for his future. He entered the Irish house of commons as MP for Belturbet, Co. Cavan (1776–83), and was then returned for Rathcormack, Co. Cork (1783–90). His rise owed much to the patronage of his younger brother. When Richard was appointed a secretary to the treasury (1782) he secured Charles a position as under-secretary for the military department in Dublin Castle. When the whigs lost power Charles refused to resign his office, and Richard accused him of a lack of principle. Charles was a skilful pamphleteer and the duke of Rutland (qv) was impressed by his efforts in defence of the administration. However, his sympathies for the whigs during the regency crisis cost him dearly, and he was removed from office on 8 August 1789; his wife was later granted an annual pension of £600. Disillusioned, he retired from politics and dedicated his final years to chemical and mechanical experiments. He often visited London to read scientific papers proclaiming some new discoveries, but they had little merit and he was not taken seriously. In 1793 he published two pamphlets, the first an essay defending Ireland's rights as an independent kingdom, the second a statement of support for catholic relief and a defence of Edmund Burke (qv) whose views had been challenged by Thomas Paine. Sheridan's health failed rapidly and he died 24 June 1806 at Tunbridge Wells. He married (1783) Letitia Christiana Bolton; they had several children.
Vain and pretentious, he lacked the wit and charm of his younger brother and was unable to make an impression as a man of business. He was a figure of fun in Dublin for boasting constantly about the ‘hidden beauties’ of his wife, was disliked by his sister Betsy for being mean and hypocritical, and was despised by Richard for being a ‘Castle tory’ (O'Toole, 189).