Thomas Shadwell


Life
1642-92; b. Norfolk, ed. Edmund St Bury’s and Caius, Cambridge [no degree]; he then entered the Middle Temple; his first play, Sullen Lovers (1668), played at Lincoln’s Inn’s Fields, was based on Moliere’s Les Facheux; also wrote dramatic pieces and an opera, Enchanted Island, after Shakespeare’s Tempest (1673); issued a Timon of Athens (1678), and Squires of Alsatia (1688);
 
issued Scourers (1691); Shadwell was famously involved in an open feud with John Dryden from 1682, the two repeatedly attacking each other in satires of which Dryden’s were Medal and MacFlecknoe, and Shadwell’s The Medal of John Bayes (1682), and a translation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal (1687); followed Dryden as laureate and historiographer royal at the revolution [1689]. ODNB OCEL OCIL

Works
Teague O’Divelly, The Irish Priest (1682) [and 2nd Part ?1682]; The Woman Captain (at Smock Alley 1713) [Clark, Appendix C.]

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Criticism
Montague Summers, ed., The Complete Works of Thomas Shadwell (NY: Benjamin Blom 1968; rep. of 1927 edn.), cclxiv, 313pp; other vols., 2, 403pp.; 3, 415pp.; 4, 441pp.; 5, 462pp.

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Commentary
G. C. Duggan, The Stage Irishman (1937), Thomas Shadwell’s two part play, The Lancashire Witches or Teague O’Divelly, the Irish Priest (1681), and The Amorous Bigotte, with the second part of Teague O’Divelly (1689; printed 1690). Context, in 1678, Sir Edmonsbury Godfrey, the London Justice who had taken the depositions of Titus Oates, was murdered; in the following year, the Crown brought the case that Fr. Gerald and Fr. Kelly, who has escaped to France, were involved, and Shadwell presented the latter under the guise of Teague O’Divelly. In the first part, Teague is explicitly identified with Kelly, but his relation to the main plot in which two girls affiancéed to booby squires fortunately marry Yorkshire gentlemen is skimpy. He is engaged in exorcising Sir Edward Hartford, who is under the delusion that he is bewitched. His character is hypocritical, superstitious, and licentious. Warned in an epilogue that he will ‘offend a part of the Nation’, Shadwell defends himself, “They that are angry must be very beasts/For all religious laugh at foolish priests.” In the second part, Teague is in Madrid, confessor to Belliza, an amorous bigotte, whose daugter Elvira and niece Rosania he dupes with his hypocrisy; at the close he performs a marriage service, pronouncing the words ‘without the intention [so that] it is no marrige and all dere posterity will be after being bashtards as all de Schoolmen say.” He is a repugnant character.

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Q. auth.: In 1682 Dryden bestowed on Shadwell the nickname ‘MacFlecknoe’ implying that he was an Irish writer and therefore a stupid writer. Shadwell was not Irish, though he probably spent four months in Ireland in 1664 or 1665. George Saintsbury mentions the story that Shadwell’s father was, among other posts, granted the office of Recorder of Galway (Thomas Shadwell, ed. George Saintsbury, London, T. Fisher Unwin; NY: Charles Scribner’s sons [n.d.], p. xiv). Montague Summes quotes Shadwell saying of Dryden that ‘he knows I never saw Ireland till I was three and twenty years old, and was there but four Months’ (The Complete Works of Thomas Shadwell , ed. by M. Summers 5 vols. (London, Benjamin Blom, 1927; reissued 1968), p.xxvi). But it was dull of Shadwell to take Dryden’s charge literally in the first place.

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Joseph Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fíor Ghael (1986), Thomas Shadwell [104-108]; equates witchcraft and popery; towards the end a messenger arrives from the capital and arrests Tegue O’Divelly for complicity in the Popish Plot. [106] Dryden’s Mac Flecknoe (ca.1678) sardonically hails Shadwell as the successor of boring Richard Flecknoe; insulted by the patronymic, Shadwell defended himself against the charge of Irishness, as if the throwaway insult had cut deepest; his defence contained in the preface to his Tenth Satyr of Juvenal (1687) where he peevishily protests against Dryden’s ‘giving me the Irish name Mack, when he knows I never saw Ireland till I was three and twenty years old, and was there but four months.’ His father was Recorder of the City of Galway. Leerssen believes that the play exorcises subliminal doubts of Church of England belief and also the taint of Irishness. The part of Tegue O’Divelly, acted by Antony Leigh, was revived in Shadwell’s sequel, The amorous bigotte. [107]; Ftn.98, Leigh appeared in Crowne’s City politiques as the lawyer Bartolino, who uses a lisp; in Otway’s The Cheats of Scapin, he imitates Welsh, Lancashire and Irish accents as well as nautical slang; also as Teg in The Committee [464]; And ftn. 99, An echo of O’Divelly appears in The Memoirs of Captain Carleton where a certain Murtough Brennan, a Kilkenny priest in Spain, attempts to debauch a young woman in a confessional. And bibl., Thomas Shadwell, Complete Works, ed. Montague Summers, 6 vols. (London: Fortune Press 1926-27).

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References
Dictionary of National Biography: father was recorder of Galway for Duke of York after Restoration and subsequently attorney-gen. at Tangier under William O’Brien, 2nd Earl of Inchiquin. In 1671 Shadwell referred to Dryden as his ‘particular friend’ and in 1679 Dryden contrib. prologue to his True Widow; but Shadwell had written in opposition to Essa on Dramatic Poesy in pref. to his first play, 1668; Dryden produced his second satire on Shaftesbury The Medall (1682), Shadwell replied with The Medal of John Bayes, a satire against Folly and Knavery, and also Prose Epistle to the Tories, abusing Dryden, and calling him ‘an abandoned rascal’, ‘half wit, half fool’; also attacked him in ‘The Tory Poets’; Dryden’s revenge came in MacFlecknoe, or Satire on the True Blue Protestant Poet, T. S. (Oct 1682), calling his literary son of Flecknoe, also with reference to his monstrous belly; a month later Dryden attacked again in Nahum Tate’s second part of Absolom and Achitophel, calling him Og, ‘mass of foul corrupted matter’ and ridiculing his opium habit; ... It was not until 1687 that Shadwell in a trans. of Juvenal’s 10th satire ... replied to MacFlecknoe ... in this he rather proved his dulness by taking literally Dryden’ reference to him as an Irishman. ... Died apparently suddenly of opium; article appeared on him in Peter Motteux’s Gentleman’s Journal; funeral oration by Nicholas Brady, printed 1693; left a ring to William Jephson [inter al.]; a collection of his plays in 4 vols. ded. Geo. I, 1720. [For Charles Shadwell and an elder brother John, who issued the collected plays of Thomas in London, 1720, both included under Thomas in this entry, see Charles, supra. Note: His Irish priests and their plays are not cited in the Shorter ODNB nor in OCEL (ed. Drabble).

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Notes
Samuel Beckett : Beckett echoes Dryden in Proust (1931): ‘if Habit is the Godess of Dullness, voluntary memory is Shadwell, and of Irish extraction.’ [Proust, Calder ed., 1965, p.33].

Hanif Kureshi: Shadwell is a character in Kureshi's The Buddha of Suburbia - cast as an utter bore whose knowledge of theatre is like an alphabetical table: 'like many spectacular bores, his thoughts were catalogued and indexed.' (p.137.)

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