1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sedley, Sir Charles

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SEDLEY, SIR CHARLES (c. 1639-1701), English wit and dramatist, was born about 1639, and was the son of Sir John Sedley of Aylesford in Kent. He was educated at Wadham College, Oxford, but left without taking a degree. Sedley is famous as a patron of literature in the Restoration period, and was the “Lisideius” of Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy. His most famous song, “Phyllis is my only joy,” is much more widely known now than the author's name. His first comedy, The Mulberry Garden (1668), hardly sustains Sedley's contemporary reputation for wit in conversation. The best, but most licentious, of his comedies is Bellamira; or The Mistress (1687), an imitation of the Eunuchus of Terence, in which the heroine is supposed to represent the duchess of Cleveland, the mistress of Charles II. His two tragedies, Antony and Cleopatra (1667) and The Tyrant King of Crete (1702), an adaptation of Henry Killigrew's Pallantus and Eudora, have little merit. He also produced The Grumbler (1702), an adaptation of Le Grondeur of Brueys and Palaprat. An indecent frolic in Bow Street, for which he was heavily fined, made Sedley notorious. He was member of parliament for New Romney in Kent, and took an active and useful part in politics. A speech of his on the civil list after the Revolution is cited by Macaulay as a proof that his reputation as a man of wit and ability was deserved. His bon mot at the expense of James II. is well known. The king had seduced his daughter and created her countess of Dorchester, whereupon Sedley remarked that he hated ingratitude, and, as the king had made his daughter a countess, he would endeavour to make the king's daughter a queen. He died on the 20th of August 1701.

His only child, Catherine, countess of Dorchester (c. 1657-1717), was the mistress of James II. both before and after he came to the throne, and was created a countess in 1686, an elevation which aroused much indignation and compelled Catherine to reside for a time in Ireland. In 1696 she married Sir David Colyear, Bart. (d. 1730), who was created earl of Portmore in 1703, and she was thus the mother of Charles Colyear, 2nd earl of Portmore (1700-1785). She died at Bath on the 26th of October 1717, when her life peerage became extinct. By James II. Lady Dorchester had a daughter Catherine (d. 1743), who married James Annesley, earl of Anglesey (d. 1702), and after his death married John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham. Through Catherine, her daughter by her first husband, she was the ancestress of the Barons Mulgrave.

See The Works of Sir Charles Sedley in Prose and Verse (1778), with a slight notice of the author.