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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
DeB. Eb 1729 P
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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
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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