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Thomas Shadwell.

Thomas Shadwell (c. 1642 – 19 November 1692) was an Englishmarker poet and playwright who was appointed poet laureate in 1689.


Shadwell was born at Stanton Hall, Norfolk, and educated at Bury St Edmundsmarker School, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridgemarker, which he entered in 1656. He left the university without a degree, and joined the Middle Templemarker. At the Whig triumph in 1688, he superseded John Dryden as poet laureate and historiographer royal. He died at Chelsea on 19 November 1692.


In 1668 he produced a prose comedy, The Sullen Lovers, or the Impertinents, based on Les Fâcheux by Molière, and written in open imitation of Ben Jonson's comedy of humours. His best plays are Epsom Wells (1672), for which Sir Charles Sedley wrote a prologue, and the Squire of Alsatia (1688). Alsatiamarker was the cant name for the Whitefriars area of London, then a kind of sanctuary for persons liable to arrest, and the play represents, in dialogue full of the local argot, the adventures of a young heir who falls into the hand of the sharpers there.

For fourteen years from the production of his first comedy to his memorable encounter with John Dryden, Shadwell produced a play nearly every year. These productions display a hatred of sham, and a rough but honest moral purpose. Although bawdy, they present a vivid picture of contemporary manners.

Shadwell is chiefly remembered as the unfortunate Mac Flecknoe of Dryden's satire, the "last great prophet of tautology," and the literary son and heir of Richard Flecknoe:
"The rest to some faint meaning make pretense,

But Shadwell never deviates into sense."

Dryden had furnished Shadwell with a prologue to his True Widow (1679), and in spite of momentary differences, the two had been on friendly terms. But when Dryden joined the court party, and produced Absalom and Achitophel and The Medal, Shadwell became the champion of the Protestants, and made a scurrilous attack on Dryden in The Medal of John Bayes: a Satire against Folly and Knavery (1682). Dryden immediately retorted in Mac Flecknoe, or a Satire on the True Blue Protestant Poet, T.S. (1682), in which Shadwell's personalities were returned with interest. A month later he contributed to Nahum Tate's continuation of Absalom and Achitophel satirical portraits of Elkanah Settle as Doeg and of Shadwell as Og. In 1687, Shadwell attempted to answer these attacks in a version of Juvenal's 10th Satire.

However, Dryden's portrait of Shadwell in Absalom and Achitophel cut far deeper, and has withstood the test of time. In this satire, Dryden noted of Settle and Shadwell:

Two fools that crutch their feeble sense on verse;

Who, by my muse, to all succeeding times

Shall live, in spite of their own doggrel rhymes;

Nonetheless, Shadwell, due to the Whig triumph in 1688 superseded his enemy as Poet Laureate and historiographer royal.

His son, Charles Shadwell was also a playwright. A scene from his play, "The Stockjobbers" was included as an introduction in Caryl Churchill's "Serious Money" (1987).


Dear Pretty Youth

::Dear Pretty Youth
Dear pretty youth, unveil your eyes,

How can you sleep when I am by?

Were I with you all night to be,

Methinks I could from sleep be free.

Alas, my dear, you're cold as stone:

You must no longer lie alone.

But be with me my dear, and I in each arm

Will hug you close and keep you warm.

Love in their little veins inspires

: Love in their little veins inspires
Love in their little veins inspires

their cheerful notes, their soft desires.

While heat makes buds and blossoms spring,

those pretty couples love and sing.

But winter puts out their desire,

and half the year they want love's fire.

Nymphs and Shepherds

: Nymphs and Shepherds
Nymphs and shepherds, come away.

In ye groves let's sport and play,

For this is Flora's holiday,

Sacred to ease and happy love,

To dancing, to music and to poetry;

Your flocks may now securely rove

Whilst you express your jollity.

Nymphs and shepherds, come away.


A complete edition of Shadwell's works was published by another son, Sir John Shadwell, in 1720. His other dramatic works are:
  • The Royal Shepherdess (1669), an adaptation of John Fountain's Rewards of Virtue
  • The Humorist (1671)
  • The Miser (1672), adapted from Molière
  • Psyche (1675)
  • The Libertine (1676)
  • The Virtuoso (1676)
  • The history of Timon of Athens the Man-hater (1678),--on this Shakespearian adaptation see O Beber, Shadwell's Bearbeitung des Timon of Athens (Röstock, 1897)
  • A True Widow (1679)
  • The Woman Captain (1680), revived in 1744 as The Prodigal
  • The Lancashire Witches and Teague O'Divelly, the Irish Priest (1682)
  • Bury Fair (1689)
  • The Amorous Bigot, with the second part of Teague O'Divelly (1690)
  • The Scowerers (1691)
  • The Volunteers, or Stockjobbers, published posthumously (1693).



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