University of Otago

"£100 & a butt of sack yearly"

The Office of the Poet Laureate
Eusden & Cibber
Austin & Bridges
Lewis & Betjeman
Hughes & Motion
Refusals & Rejects

First & Second

John Dryden, Fables Ancient and Modern

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Within a week of D'Avenant's death (7 April 1668), the dramatist, poet and translator John Dryden was named Poet Laureate. It was officially recorded: 'to bee Poet Laureatt' and receive 'one butt or Pype of the best Canary wyne.' Charles II was a slow payer and Dryden often complained (like Jonson had to James I), requesting a 'speedy answer to my present request of halfe a year's pention for my necessityes.' In 1688, with the arrival of the new King, Dryden was deprived of office. In later years, one of his finest achievements was his Fables, Ancient and Modern (1700), a collection of new translations of classical and medieval poetry, together with some of his own original poems. It received great acclaim on publication. This is the 1713 edition.

John Dryden, Fables Ancient and Modern. London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1713.
DeB. Eb 1713 D


'John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel

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On his appointment, Dryden promptly lost no time in creating duties for himself: to support the King against his enemies at home and abroad. In the 20 years he wrote satires on the Roman Catholics (The Spanish Friar, 1680) and attacked the Whigs (The Duke of Guise, 1683). His first and best satire was Absalom and Achitopel (1681), occasioned by the Earl of Shaftesbury's support of Monmouth's pretensions to succeed Charles as King. It was said to be written at the King's express command. It remains one of the best examples of official poetry. Dryden died in April 1700 and was given a handsome funeral and buried in Westminster Abbey on 13 May 1700.

'John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel. London: Printed for J.T. and are to be sold by W. Davis, 1681.
DeB. Ec 1681 D


Thomas Shadwell, The Squire of Alsatia.

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By the time Thomas Shadwell (1642?-1692) became Poet Laureate, he was 47, and a successful dramatist. He was a Whig; Dryden was a Tory. The ex-laureate did not think much of his successor, calling him a Tun (four hogsheads or about 208 gallons) 'round as a globe and liquor'd every chink.' Shadwell attacked Dryden in The Medal of John Bayes (1682) and was himself lampooned in Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel and Mac Flecknoe. Shadwell's importance lies in the fact that he established the tradition of penning annual birthday and New Year odes as well as verse for such events as royal births and marriages, coronations and military victories. This is a later printing of his play The Squire of Alsatia, first printed in 1688.

Thomas Shadwell, The Squire of Alsatia. London: Printed for T. Lownds, 1764.
DeB. Eb 1764 S


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