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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

I. Dryden

§ 22. The Medal

Though, as has been seen, the Middlesex grand jury was proof against Dryden’s satire, which provoked a number of replies not calling for notice here, the reaction with which he had identified himself was not long in setting in—so much so that, in March, 1682, the duke of York was not afraid to show himself in England. It was about this time that Dryden, it is said at the king’s suggestion, published The Medal, or A Satire against Sedition. Into this poem, which, likewise, called forth a variety of replies attesting its effectiveness, the didactic element enters more largely than it had done in the case of its more famous predecessor; but the principal point of attack is again selected with great judgment. Shaftesbury’s hypocrisy is the quality for which the hero of the puritan citizens is more especially censured; while his worshippers are derided, not because they are few, but because they are many. The inimitable apostrophe to the mobile, metrically, as well as in other respects, is one of the most magnificent mockeries to be found in verse:

  • Almighty crowd! thou shortenest all dispute;
  • Power is thy essence, wit thy attribute!
  • Nor faith nor reason make thee at a stay,
  • Thou leap’st o’er all eternal truths in thy Pindaric way!
  • Among the whig writers who came forward to reply to The Medal was Thomas Shadwell, whose contributions to the dramatic literature of the age are noticed elsewhere. Dryden and the “True Blue Poet” had been on friendly terms, and the former had written a prologue for Shadwell’s comedy A True Widow so recently as 1679. But, in The Medal of John Bayes, the source, as has been seen, of not a few long-lived scurrilities against Dryden, and (if this was by the same hand) in The Tory Poets, Shadwell contrived to offend his political adversary beyond bearing. Johnson and others have, however, blundered in supposing the whig writer’s appointment to the poet laureateship, which was not made till 1689, to be alluded to in Mac Flecknoe; or, A Satire on the True Blue Protestant Poet, T. S., which was published in October, 1682.