1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Shadwell

Robert Southey, in Specimens of the Later English Poets (1807) 1:62.



Shadwell was a popular dramatist when he wrote some political remarks upon Dryden's Duke of Guise, in consequence of which he was compelled to fly into Holland. What share Dryden may have had in this persecution cannot now be known; but on the revolution Dryden was deposed from his Laureateship, and Shadwell crowned in his stead, a reward more due to his principles than his poetry. He was also appointed Royal Historiographer. His Comedies have been highly praised by dramatick criticks. In indecency they may vie with any of his own times, and in absurdity and gross caricature, with any of ours. Of his only rhymed tragedy, he says, "In all the words which are sung, I do not so much take care of the wit or fancy of them, as the making of them proper for musick." This gentleman had the modesty to alter Timon of Athens, and to say of it, "it has the inimitable hand of Shakespeare in it, which never made more masterly strokes than in this. Yet I can truly say, I have made it into a play."