University of Otago

"£100 & a butt of sack yearly"

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

Nahum Tate

Alexander Pope, The Dunciad

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As early as 1678, Nahum Tate (1652-1715) penned Brutus of Alba, a play dedicated to the Earl of Dorset. It was this aristocratic connection that helped him attain the position of poet laureate, after Shadwell's death in 1692. Although Tate was a voluminous laureate, he was not illuminating. Indeed, one wit made claim that he is a poet who survives in footnotes. In The Dunciad, the acerbic Pope was less than flattering: 'Nahum Tate was Poet-Laureate, a cold writer, of no invention…'

Alexander Pope, The Dunciad. 2nd ed. London: Printed for Lawton Gilliver, 1729.
DeB. Eb 1729 P

Christopher Spencer, Five Restoration Adaptations of Shakespeare.

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Apart from the obligatory New Year and Birthday Odes, poems on the death of Queen Mary and Queen Anne, and poems on victories by sea and land, Tate produced for theatre numerous Shakespearian adaptations: Richard the Second (1681; suppressed on the second night) and King Lear (1681), where he dispenses with the Fool and has Cordelia marry Edgar (as shown). He did, after all, live in an age when to 'alter' Shakespeare or adapt Molière was an accepted practice. Such a happy ending satisfied playgoers for many years.

Christopher Spencer, Five Restoration Adaptations of Shakespeare. Urbana, Illinois: Illinois University Press, 1965.
Cen. PR 2877 SQ93

Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate, A New Version of the Psalms of David

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For one who was described by the antiquarian William Oldys as 'a free good-natured fuddling companion', Tate was moderately successful in his post. He lasted 23 years and outlived three monarchs, with each successor confirming his position. Indeed, the post of poet laureate was consolidated, with the pension of £100 and the butt of sack confirmed as payment and officially transferred to the office of the Lord Chamberlain. On display is Tate's most celebrated work, A New Version of the Psalms of David, which first appeared in 1696 and was co-authored by another Irishman, Nicholas Brady (1659-1726).

Nicholas Brady and Nahum Tate, A New Version of the Psalms of David. London: Printed by A. Wilde, for the Company of Stationers, 1755.
Sho. Eb 1754 B

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