Bury Fair


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 At the Whig triumph in 1688, he superseded John Dryden as poet laureate and historiographer royal.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; however a memorial to him survives in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.


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.[4][5]

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.[6]

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 Sh____ 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.[6]

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.[6]

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. His other dramatic works are:

  • The Sullen Lovers, or the Impertinents (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
  • Restoration comedy
  • The International Thomas Shadwell Society was founded on 16 April 2016 at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champagne. http://thomasshadwell.com/
  1. ^ Clarke, WG (1937). In Breckland Wilds. Heffer & Sons Ltd, Cambridge; 2nd edition, p.142
  2. ^ "Shadwell, Thomas (SHDL656T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b Thomas Shadwell Archived 28 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Shadwell Archived 9 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Thomas Shadwell biography Archived 28 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c NNDB
  7. ^ MacFleck’noe
  8. ^ Satire
  9. ^ Love in their little veins inspires
  10. ^ Nymphs and Shepherds
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Shadwell, Thomas". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 759. 
External links
  • Works by or about Thomas Shadwell at Internet Archive
  • Works by Thomas Shadwell at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • 14 Shadwell Plays Online.
Court offices
Preceded by John Dryden British Poet Laureate 1689–1692 Succeeded by Nahum Tate
Preceded by John Dryden English Historiographer Royal 1689–1692 Succeeded by Thomas Rymer

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