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-Nothing now, dinner staid,
But till he had himself a body made;
I mean till he were dressed; for else, so thin
With consecrated wafers; and the host
Hath sure more flesh and blood than he can boast.
This basso-relievo of a man,
Who, as a camel tall, yet easily can
The needle's eye thread without any stitch;
Lest his too subtle body, growing rare,
With which he doth his third dimension stuff.
Doth make a primitive sotana fall;
And over that, yet casts an antique cloak,
Which, by the Jews long hid and disesteemed,
It appears that Flecknoe either laid aside, or disguised, his spiritual character, when he returned to England; but he still preserved extensive connections with the Roman Catholic nobility and gentry. He probably wrote upon many occasional subjects, but his poetry has fallen into total oblivion. I have particularly sought in vain for his verses to King John of Portugal, to which Dryden alludes a little lower. Langbaine mentions four of his plays, namely, "Damoiselles a la Mode," " Erminia," " Love's Dominion," and "Love's Kingdom," (of which more hereafter;) but none of these were ever acted, excepting the last. This gave Flecknoe great indignation, which he thus vents against the players in his preface to "Damoiselles a la Mode." "For the acting of this comedy, those who have the governing of the stage have their humour, and would be entreated; and I have mine, and won't entreat them: and were all dramatic writers of my mind, they should wear their old plays thread-bare before they
* An anonymous poet ascribes the estimation in which he was held to his poetical propensities:
Verse the famed Flecknoe raised, the muses' sport,
should have any new, till they better understood their own interest, and how to distinguish betwixt good and bad." Notwithstanding this ill usage, he honoured the players so far, as to prefix to each character, in the dramatis persona of his pieces, the name of the actor, by whom, had the managers been less inexorable, he meant it should have been performed. But this he did for the sake of the gentle reader, whom he assures, that a lively imagination being thus assisted in bodying forth the character, he may receive as much pleasure from the perusal as from the actual representation of the performance. Flecknoe bore the damnation of the only one of his plays which was represented, with the same valiant indifference with which he supported the rebuffs of the players. In short, he seems to have been fitted for an incorrigible scribbler, by a happy fund of self-satisfaction, upon which neither the censures of criticism, nor the united hisses of a whole nation, could make the slightest impression. When or how Flecknoe died is uncertain, and of very little consequence; I presume, however, that he was dead when this satire was published. I am uncertain whether the reader will think, that this poor poetaster merited mercy at the hands of Dryden, for the following lines which he had written in his praise, and which, at any rate, may serve as a specimen of Flecknoe's poetry:
Dryden, the muses darling and delight,
Than whom none ever flew so high a flight:
No farther than to the fount of Helicon :
And they're but airy ones, whose muse soars up
No higher than to mount Parnassus top;
Whilst thou, with thine, dost seem to have mounted higher
And dost as far surpass all others, as
Fire does all other elements surpass.
Flecknoe's memory being only preserved by this satire, his very name came to be identified with its title. King, in "A Dialogue in the Shades," introduces him under the name of Mac-Flecknoe; and Derrick falls into the same error.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dulness from his tender years.-P. 433.
Thomas Shadwell was born at Santon-hall, in Norfolk, in which county his father represented a very ancient family. He was educated at Caius College, in Cambridge, and placed in the Middle Temple to study law; but, like many of the inhabitants of
these buildings, he preferred the smoother paths of literature. He made several essays in heroic verse, all of which are deplorably bad. They are chiefly occasional pieces; as, an Address to the Prince of Orange on his Landing, another to Queen Mary, and a Translation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal; which, though prefaced by a violent refutation of our author's attacks upon him, is so execrable, as fully to confirm Dryden's censures of the author's poetical talents. But, in comedy, he was much more successful; and, in that capacity, Dryden does him great injustice in pronouncing him a dunce. On the contrary, I think most of Shadwell's comedies may be read with great pleasure. They do not, indeed, exhibit any brilliancy of wit, or ingenuity of intrigue; but the characters are truly dramatic, original, and well drawn; and the picture of manners which they exhibit gives us a lively idea of those of the author's age. As Shadwell proposed Jonson for his model, peculiarity of character, or what was then technically called humour, was what he chiefly wished to exhibit; and in this, it cannot be denied that he has often succeeded admirably. His powers, as a dramatist, are highly rated by Rochester, who imputes his coarseness to rapidity of composition:
Of all our modern wits, none seem to me
To make the fools and women praise them more.
Shadwell's plays are seventeen in number, and were published, in four volumes, under the inspection of his son, Sir John Shadwell, M. D.
Shadwell's life was chequered with misfortune. As he espoused the party of the Duke of Monmouth, to whom he dedicated Psyche," and of Shaftesbury, he thought himself obliged to draw the quill in defence of their cause. Accordingly, as we have seen, he attempted to answer "The Medal" on the one hand, and, on the other, accused cur author of intending a parallel between Monmouth and the Duke of Guise, in the play so entitled. This zeal seems to have cost Shadwell dear; for, besides undergoing the severe flagellations administered by Dryden, in the "Defence of the Duke of Guise," in "Absalom and Achitophel," and in the present poem, he complains, that his ruin was designed, and his life sought; and that, for near ten years, he was kept from the exercise of that profession which had afforded him a competent sub
sistence. * It is no wonder, therefore, he was among the first to hail the dawn of the Revolution, by the address already mentioned, of which the full title is, "A Congratulatory Poem on his Highness the Prince of Orange his coming into England. Written by T. S. (Thomas Shadwell,) a True Lover of his Country, (10th January) 1689;" and that King William distinguished him by the honours of the laurel. Dorset, who was high chamberlain, answered, to those who remonstrated on Shadwell's lack of poetical talent, that, without pretending to vouch for Mr Shadwell's genius, he was sure he was an honest man. Shadwell did not long enjoy this triumph over his great enemy. He died 19th November, 1692, † in the fifty-second year of his age. It is said, this event was hastened by his taking an over dose of opium, to the use of which he was inordinately addicted. "His death," says Dr Nicholas Brady, who preached his funeral sermon, "seized him suddenly; but he could not be unprepared, since, to my certain knowledge, he never took a dose of opium but he solemnly recommended himself to God by prayer." In person, Shadwell was large, corpulent, and unwieldy; a circumstance which our author generally keeps in the eye of the reader. He seems to have imitated his prototype, Ben Jonson, in gross and coarse sensual indulgence, and profane conversation. But, if there be truth in a funeral sermon, he must have corrected these habits before his death; for Dr Brady tells us, "that our author was a man of great honesty and integrity, and inviolable fidelity and strictness in his word; an unalterable friendship wherever he professed it; and however the world may be mistaken in him, he had a much deeper sense of religion than many who pretended more to it. His natural and acquired abilities," continues the Doctor," made him very amiable to all who knew and conversed with him, a very few being equal in the becoming qualities which adorn and set off a complete gentleman; his very enemies, if he has now any left, will give him this character, at least if they knew him so thoroughly as I did."-CIBBER's Lives of the Poets, Article Shadwell, Vol. III.
*Epistle dedicatory to " Bury-fair," addressed to the Earl of Dorset. See the inscription intended for his monument in Westminster Abbey, by his son Sir John Shadwell, in the Life prefixed to Shadwell's Works. But it was altered before it was placed in the Abbey, and a blunder in the date seems to have crept in.-See CIBBER's Lives of the Poets, Vol. III. p. 49.
Heywood and Shirley.-P. 434.
Voluminous dramatic authors, who flourished in the beginning of the 17th century. There were no less than four Heywoods who wrote plays; so that, Winstanley says, the name of Heywood seemed to be destinated to the stage. But he whom Dryden here means, is Thomas Heywood, a person rather to be admired for the facility, than for the excellence of his compositions. Every place and situation was alike to him while composing; and the favourite register of his scenes was the back of a tavern bill. Far the greater part of his labours are now lost; and yet there remain, in the libraries of the curious, twenty-four printed plays by Thomas Heywood. He was an actor by profession, and a good scholar, as is evinced by several of his classical allusions. His plays may be examined with advantage by the antiquary, but afford slender amusement to the lovers of poetry. The following character of him, by an old poet, is preserved by Langbaine:
If we cannot call Heywood a second Lope de Vega, in point of the extent of his dramatic works, he overtops most English authors; since he assures us, in his preface to the "English Traveller," that it was one reserved among two hundred and twenty plays, in which he had either had "a whole hand, or, at the least, a main finger." It is a pity, as Johnson said of Churchill, so fruitful a tree should have borne only crabs.
James Shirley, whom our author most unjustly couples with Heywood, to whom, as well as to Shadwell, he was greatly superior, was born in 1594, and, although for some time a schoolmaster, appears to have lived chiefly by the stage. When the civil wars broke out, he followed the fortune of William, Earl of Newcastle. During the usurpation, when theatres were prohibited, he returned to his original profession of a schoolmaster. He died of fatigue and distress of mind during the great fire of London, in 1666. He wrote forty-two plays, and there are thirtynine in print; a complete set of which is much esteemed by collectors. Dr Farmer has traced, to this neglected bard, an idea, which Milton thought not unworthy of adoption.