Sharp, Richard

Richard Sharp (1759-1835) was widely known as ‘Conversation Sharp’. He was at various times a hat-maker, banker, merchant, poet, critic, Member of Parliament, and conversationalist. He was, like Mary and Elizabeth Hays, thoroughly immersed in the radical politics of the 1790s, and may well have first met the two sisters at that time. He joined the Committee for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1788, and several reform-minded societies in the next decade. He befriended both Coleridge and Wordsworth at various times, and was a close friend of the poet Samuel Rogers, with whom he shared, as he did the Hays sisters, a strong interest in Unitarianism. He served as MP for Castle Rising (1806-12), Portarlington (1816-19), and Ilchester (1826-27).