1679 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Charles Sedley

Thomas Shadwell, in Dedication to A True Widow a Comedy (1679) sig. A2-A2v.



I shall not, according to the Custom of Dedications, make a Declamation upon your Wit, the common Theam of all that have any, at least of such as know you, who will acknowledge, they have heard more of it drop carelesly from your Mouth, than they have ever seen from the labouring Pen of any other. And my greatest satisfaction is, that I have the Honour of his Friendship, and my Comedies have had his Approbation, whom I have heard speak more Wit at a Supper, than all my Adversaries, with their Heads joyn'd together, can write in a year. Nor are your Writings unequal to any Man's of this Age, (not to speak of abundance of excellent Copies of Verses) you have in the Mulberry-Garden shown the true Wit, Humour, and Satyr of a Comedy; and in Antony and Cleopatra, the true Spirit of a Tragedy, the only one (except two of Johnson's, and one of Shakespear's) wherein Romans are made to speak and do like Romans: there are to be found the true Characters of Antony and Cleopatra, as they were; whereas a French Author would have made the Aegyptian and the Roman both become French under his Pen. And even our English Authors are too much given to make true History (in their Plays) Romantick and impossible; but in this Play, the Romans are true Romans, and their Style is such: and I dare affirm, that there is not in any Play of this Age so much of the Spirit of the Classick Authors, as in your Antony and Cleopatra. This Opinion I have, unbiass'd by my Friendship, and the Obligations which I owe to you, often declared, and shall always persist in.

After all this, since my Comedies are approved and commended by you, and Men of your sort, the rest of the Audience must forgive me, if I am much more exalted by the praise of such as you, than I can ever be humbled by their censure.