1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Charles Sedley

John Nichols, in Select Collection of Poems with Notes Biographical and Historical (1780-82) 1:89-91.



Son of Sir John Sedley, of Aylesford, in Kent, where he was born about the year 1639. At 17 years of age, he was a fellow commoner of Wadham college, Oxford; and returned to his own country without taking any degree. At the Restoration, he came to London; commenced wit, courtier, poet, and gallant; and was so much esteemed as to be a kind of oracle among the poets. Whilst the reputation of his wit increased, he became poor and debauched, his estate was impaired, and his morals much corrupted. In 1663, being fined five hundred pounds for a riot in Bow-street, he became more serious, and applied to politicks. — His daughter Catherine, having been mistress to James II. before he ascended the throne, was created countess of Dorchester, Jan. 2, 1685; and, on that king's abdication, she married the earl of Portmore. Sir Charles, who looked upon the title as a splendid indignity purchased at the expence of his daughter's honour, was extremely active in bringing about the Revolution; from a principle of gratitude, as he said himself: "for, since his majesty has made my daughter a countess, it is fit I should do all I can to make his daughter a queen." He died Aug. 20, 1701. His works, which bear great marks of genius, and consist of speeches, political pieces, translations from Virgil and Horace, poems, songs, and five plays, were printed in 2 vols. 8vo. 1719, and again in 1722. Amongst them is a comedy called "The Mulberry Garden," acted at the Theatre Royal 1688. That garden is also mentioned in several other comedies of the last century. And Dr. King, in his "Art of Cookery," ver. 83, observes,

A princely palace on that space does rise,
Where Sedley's noble Muse found Mulberries.

At the representation of his comedy of "Bellamira," the roof of the play-house fell down; by which Sir Charles and a few others were hurt. His merry friend Sir Fleetwood Shepheard observed to him on this occasion, "There was so much fire in his play, that it blew up the poet, house and all." — "No," returned the baronet, "the play was so heavy, it broke down the house, and buried the poet in his own rubbish." Sir Carr Scrope's song, which is printed in this volume, p. 16, has, from a similarity of their initials, been erroneously ascribed to Sir Charles Sedley. N.