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And Jonson, of those few the best, chose this,
Subtle was got by our Albumazar,
That Alchymist by this Astrologer;
Here he was fashioned, and we may suppose,
And what's their plunder, their possession call;
Poets, not of the head, but of the hand.
* This seems to have been a cant name for highwaymen. Shadwell's christian name was Thomas.
+ Shadwell succeeded to our author's post of laureat, after the VOL. X.
They make the benefits of others studying,
Revolution. I am not able to discover, if Shadwell had given any very recent cause for this charge of plagiarism. In the "Libertine," "The Miser," " Bury-fair," and "The Sullen Lovers," he has borrowed, or rather translated, from Moliere. The "Squire of Alsatia" contains some imitations of Terence's "Adelphi." "Psyche" is taken from the French, and "Timon of Athens" from Shakespeare, although Shadwell has the assurance to claim the merit of having made it into a play. He was also under obligations to his contemporaries. The "Royal Shepherdess" was originally written by one Mr Fountain of Devonshire. Dryden, in "Mac-Flecnoe," intimates, that Sedley "larded with wit" his play of "Epsom Wells ;" and in the Dedication to the "True Widow," Shadwell himself acknowledges obligations to that gentleman's revision of some of his pieces. Langbaine, who hated Dryden, and professed an esteem for Shadwell, expresses himself thus, on the latter's claim to originality:
"But I am willing to say the less of Mr Shadwell, because I have publicly professed a friendship for him; and though it be not of so long date as some former intimacy with others, so neither is it blemished with some unhandsome dealings I have met with from persons where I least expected it. I shall therefore speak of him with the impartiality that becomes a critic, and own I like his comedies better than Mr Dryden's, as having more variety of characters, and those drawn from the life; I mean men's converse and manners, and not from other men's ideas, copied out of their public writings: though indeed I cannot wholly acquit our present laureat from borrowing; his plagiaries being in some places too bold and open to be disguised, of which I shall take notice, as I go along; though with this remark, that several of them are observed to my hand, and in great measure excused by himself, in the public acknowledgment he makes in his several prefaces, to the persons to whom he was obliged for what he bor rowed."
For they their thefts still undiscovered think,
These men write that which no man else would steal.
Shadwell in the following lines, which occur in the prologue to the "Scowerers," seems to retort on Dryden the accusation here brought against him:
You have been kind to many of his plays,
You saw our wife was chaste, yet throughly tried,
To some new frisk of contrariety.
You roll like snow-balls, gathering as you run,
Your Venus once was a Platonic queen,
* Perhaps our author had in view the three oppositions of Saturn and Jupiter in June and December 1692, and in April 1693, which are thus feelingly descanted upon by John Silvester: It hath been long observed, that the most remarkable mutations of a kingdom, or nation, have chiefly depended on the conjunctions or aspects of those two superior planets, Saturn and Jupiter; and by their effects past, we perceive that the most wise Creator first placed them higher than all the other planets, that they should respect, chiefly, the highest and most durable affairs and concerns of men on earth.
"And if one opposition of Saturn and Jupiter produceth much, how then can those three oppositions to come do any less than cause some remarkable changes and alterations of laws, or religious orders, in England's chief and most renowned city? because Saturn then will be stronger than Jupiter, who also, at his second opposition, will be near unto the body of Mars, (the planet of war;) and having took possession of religious Jupiter, should contend with him, (with a frowning lofty countenance,) in London's ascendant, from whence I fear some religious disturbances, if not some warlike violence, by insurrections, or otherwise, occasioned by some frowning dissatisfied minds, which will then happen in some part of Britain, or take its beginning there to the purpose in those years.
"Ah poor Jupiter in Gemini! (London,) I fear thou wilt then be so much humbled against thy will, that thou wilt think thou hast a sufficient occasion to bewail thy condition; and if so, God will suffer this, that thou mayest humbly endeavour to forsake thy accustomed sins, and that thou mayest know power is not in thee to help thyself. But yet I think thou wilt then have no need to fear that God hath wholly forsaken thee; for look but a little