Sir Charles Sedley Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Sir Charles Sedley (SEHD-lee) was also known for his plays during his lifetime. His first theatrical venture was translating an act of Pierre Corneille’s La Mort de Pompée (pr. 1643; The Death of Pompey, 1663) as a joint project withEdmund Waller, Robert Filmer, Baron Buckhurst, and Sidney Godolphin; it was performed in 1664 as Pompey the Great. Later plays include The Mulberry Garden (pr., pb. 1668), Antony and Cleopatra (pr., pb. 1677), and Bellamira: Or, The Mistress (pr., pb. 1687). Sedley’s plays were treated with respect during the Restoration and proved moderately successful at the box office, but they have not survived their era in performance. They are available in Vivian de Sola Pinto’s 1928 edition of Sedley’s works.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Sir Charles Sedley is remembered today as an important figure in a minor literary group: the Restoration court poets, sometimes known as the court wits or the merry gang of Charles II. The earl of Rochester is the most prominent poet in this group; Sedley ranks immediately after him. In his own time, Sedley was known as a man of taste and was as famous for his wit and conversation as for his writings. His judgment on a new play or poem could help to establish or destroy a literary reputation. Today, Sedley is best known for his lyric love poetry. The most immediately apparent elements in his songs are a clever use of persuasion and an underlying Epicurean philosophy. In his biography of Sedley (1927), Vivian de Sola Pinto has noted that as a group the Restoration court poets represent “the triumph of the intellectual and logical side of the Renaissance over the imaginative and emotional elements.” This generalization surely applies to Sedley, who was a poet of direct statement and controlled feeling rather than of elaborate conceits and grand passion.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Hopkins, P. A. “Aphra Behn and John Hoyle: A Contemporary Mention, and Sir Charles Sedley’s Poem on His Death.” Notes and Queries 41, no. 2 (June, 1994): 176. Discusses the death of Hoyle and his relationship with Aphra Behn and includes an anlysis of Sedley’s poem on Hoyle’s death, “A Ballad, to the Tune of Bateman.”

Pinto, Vivian de Sola. Restoration Carnivals, Five Courtier Poets: Rochester, Dorset, Sedley, Etherege, and Sheffield. London: Folio Society, 1954. By the compiler of the 1928 edition of Sedley’s plays, this is a thoroughly illuminating analysis that reveals much about the poets and their works. Offers a worthy overview of Sedley and his poetic achievements. Complemented by a bibliography.

_______. The Restoration Court Poets: John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester; Charles Sackville, Earl of Dorset; Sir Charles Sedley; Sir George Etherege. London: Longmans, Green, 1965. This volume compares and examines the critical and theoretical views of these four Restoration Court literary figures. The section on Sedley provides criticism helpful to an appreciation and understanding of Sedley’s works.

_______. Sir Charles Sedley, 1639-1701: A Study in the Life and Literature of the Restoration. London: Longmans, Green, 1965. One of the few book-length works devoted to Sedley, by the well-known scholar of Restoration literature. Bibliography.

Vinson, James, ed. Great Writers of the English Language: Poets. Vol. 1. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. The entry by John H. Perry notes that Sedley, one of the chief poets of Charles II’s reign, was primarily known for his love poems and songs. He claims that it was Sedley’s satires, which betrayed the cynicism of the court, that made him less popular. Praises Sedley for his “perceptive eye and cutting pen.”

Wilson, John Harold. The Court Wits of the Restoration: An Introduction. 1948. Reprint. New York: Octagon Books, 1967. Wilson provides a worthy overview and analysis of early modern English literature from 1500 to 1700 and offers a history and criticism of English wit and humor. He provides perspective on Sedley’s life. Supplemented by a bibliography.