1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Shadwell

Hartley Coleridge, in "Andrew Marvell" Worthies of Yorkshire and Lancashire (1836) 6-7n.



The Courtly Laurel has never, in public opinion, recovered from the contamination of Shadwell's brows. Tom was the father of a dynasty of Laureate Dunces, among whom it is grievous to think that such names as Warton and Southey should be numbered; to wit, Tate, Rowe, Eusden, Cibber, Whitehead, and Pie,—

What though the Courtly Laurel now
Adorn a true poetic brow,—
Immortal Bard, as well might'st thou
Write verses to a huge Dutch Frau,
As big as all three Graces,
As well, nay better far by half,
Make hymns to Jeroboam's calf,
Or write in sand an epitaph,
O'er the drown'd world of Mynheer Pfaff,
As waste thy precious Autograph
Upon the mighty men of chaff
In lyric periphrases.
TOM BROWN THE THIRD.

Mynheer Pfaff is a famous geologist, and a Neptunian.

Shadwell, though accused by Dryden, of "never deviating into sense," was a dramatist of some talent, not wholly valueless, for his plays record the state of manners among certain classes with vivid fidelity, if indeed the records of vice are worth preserving at all. He was the first Englishman who introduced Don Juan upon the stage, and his Tragedy of the Libertine is very good in its own bad kind. His Comedies are resolutely and offensively coarse, and scarcely deserve the trouble of purgation.