Thomas Shadwell, superstar

I wonder what odds the Las Vegas bookies were offering last January, about there being two unrelated blog-posts on Thomas Shadwell during the same calendar year?

I suppose that’s unfair. There’s no more reason why people shouldn’t write about Shadwell than that they should write about, oh, I don’t know –  Alexander Oldys? –  to whose legacy I have just contributed 3000 words. Still, I couldn’t suppress a surprised yelp of laughter when I stumbled across this post…nor a sigh of admiration as I explored more thoroughly the blog that contained it.

As you might recall, my own mention of Thomas Shadwell was a rumination over whether he might have been the author of The Perplex’d Prince. Professor Robin Bates, blog-master of Better Living Through Beowulf, chose to draw comparisons between Shadwell and today’s more irresponsible political commentators, making outrageous remarks merely to get themselves noticed. Both of us alluded to John Dryden’s attack on Shadwell in the satirical smackdown, Mac Flecknoe. Shadwell may at length have won the political war against Dryden, but in the artistic one he crashed to bloody, humiliating defeat:

      Now Empress Fame had published the renown,

      Of Sh——’s coronation through the town.
      Roused by report of fame, the nations meet,
      From near Bun-Hill, and distant Watling Street.

      No Persian Carpets spread th’imperial way,

      But scattered limbs of mangled poets lay:
      From dusty shops neglected authors come,
      Martyrs of Pies, and Relics of the Bum.
      Much Heywood, Shirly, Ogleby there lay,

      But loads of Sh—— almost choked the way.

As for Better Living Through Beowulf, it’s a heady mixture of literature, film, poetry, politics, religion and social issues. And if that doesn’t grab you, there’s tennis, ice hockey and (American) football. Off you go.

2 Comments to “Thomas Shadwell, superstar”

  1. I absolutely love the premise of this blog, although I think I’d quarrel with the “uninformed” descriptor. It’s it such an 18th century enterprise, with its references to rambling (and you could have added idling”). And the caffeine recalls the coffee houses of the day. I didn’t know that Dryden actually lost the confrontation with Shadwell. Not a hopeful sign for those who opposed tastelessness with class–at least in the short run.

    Although Shadwell wasn’t a bad as some of the time. My respect for him would really go up if he authored the book you mention. That book sounds fascinating. Yes, I can see Tom Jones touches.

    I’ll check in periodically to track your rambling. I’ve added you to my own blog roll.

  2. Hello, Robin – thank you so much for stopping by! I’m lost in admiration of your own blog-work, having just spent a lovely couple of days browsing through your back posts. And if I am less “uninformed” now that when I set out on this ridiculous ramble, it’s only because I’ve undergone a course of enforced education something similar to Alex’s “treatment” at the end of A Clockwork Orange. Or at least, that’s what it feels like.

    As for Shadwell, no-one supposes he got the Poet Laureate position for the quality of his poetry! This is the trouble with two-party politics, of course – it does terrible things to your priorities. 🙂

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