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Thomas Shadwell
Thomas Shadwell from NPG.jpg
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
In office
9 March 1689 – 19 or 20 November 1692
MonarchWilliam III and Mary II
Preceded byJohn Dryden
Succeeded byNahum Tate
Personal details
Bornc. 1642
Weeting or Lynford, Norfolk, England
Died(1692-11-19)19 November 1692
London, England
Spouse(s)Anne Shadwell
Alma materGonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Occupationpoet, playwright
Awardspoet laureate

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


Shadwell was born at either Bromehill Farm, Weeting-with-Broomhill or Santon House, Lynford, Norfolk,[1] and educated at Bury St Edmunds School, and at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1656.[2] He left the university without a degree, and joined the Middle Temple. At the Whig triumph in 1688, he superseded John Dryden as poet laureate and historiographer royal. He died at Chelsea on 19 November 1692.[3] He was buried in Chelsea Old Church, but his tomb was destroyed by wartime bombing. A memorial to him with a bust by Francis Bird survives in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.[4]

He was married to the actress Anne Shadwell, who appeared in several of his plays. They had four children including the playwright Charles Shadwell and John Shadwell, a physician who attended to both Queen Anne and George I.[5]


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). Alsatia 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 hands of the sharpers there.[6][7]

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.[8]

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.[8]

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.[8]

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).[3]


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. Thomas Shadwell's other dramatic works are:

  • The Sullen Lovers (1668), adapted from Molière
  • 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 Oscar Beber's inaugural dissertation, Thom. Shadwell's Bearbeitung des Shakespeare'schen "Timon of Athens" (Rostock, 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)

See also

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  1. ^ Clarke, WG (1937). In Breckland Wilds. Heffer & Sons Ltd, Cambridge; 2nd edition, p.142
  2. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url("//")right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}"Shadwell, Thomas (SHDL656T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ a b Thomas Shadwell Archived 28 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660-1851 by Rupert Gunnis
  5. ^ Highfill, Philip H, Burnim, Kalman A. & Langhans, Edward A. A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers & Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, Volume 13. SIU Press, 1991. p.276
  6. ^ Shadwell Archived 9 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Thomas Shadwell biography Archived 28 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b c "NNDB". NNDB. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  9. ^ "MacFleck'noe". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Satire". Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Love in their little veins inspires". 16 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Nymphs and Shepherds". 16 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2018.


External links

4 Annotations

Pedro.  •  Link

Shadwell (L&M Companion)

"Dramatist and wit; friend of Sedley. A better conversationalist than writer, if we may believe Rochester. ('If Shadwell had burnt all he wrote, and printed all he spoke, he would have had more wit and humour than any other poet')"

Pedro  •  Link

Thomas Shadwell

In 1676 his play The Virtuoso, he lampoons the Members of the Royal Society. The central figure Sir Nicholas Gimcrack quotes from Hooke's Micrographia, and the character Sir Formal Trifle pokes fun at John Evelyn.

The Fellows were mortified to learn that the King had attended a performance of the play, evidence that the Royal Society was a laughing stock at the Court.

(Source: John Evelyn, Living for Ingenuity by Gillian Darley)

Bill  •  Link

SHADWELL, THOMAS (1642?-1692), dramatist and poet; educated at Caius College, Cambridge, and entered Middle Temple; produced the 'Sullen Lovers,' based on Moliere's ' Les Facheux,' at Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, 1668; produced dramatic pieces, including an opera, the 'Enchanted Island' (from Shakespeare's 'Tempest'), 1673, 'Timon of Athens,' 1678, the 'Squire of Alsatia,' 1688, and the 'Scowrers,' 1691; was at open feud with Dryden from 1682, the two poets repeatedly attacking one another in satires, among which were Dryden's 'Medal' and 'MacFlecknoe,' and Shadwell's 'The Medal of John Bayes,' 1682, and a translation of the 'Tenth Satire of Juvenal,' 1687; superseded Dryden as poet-laureate and historiographer royal at the revolution.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.