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his life, clerk to Mr. Jeffery’s of Earl's Croomb in Worcestershire, an eminent justice of the peace. In his service he had not only leisure for study, but for recreation; his amusements were musick and painting : and the reward of his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated Cooper. Some pictures, said to be his, were shown to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but when he inquired for them some years afterward, he found them destroyed to stop windows, and owns that they hardly deserved a better fate. He was afterward admitted into the family of the countess of Kent, where he had the use of a library and so much recommended himself to Selden, that he was often employed by him in literary business. Selden, as is well known, was steward to the countess, and is supposed to have gained much of his wealth by managing her estate. In what character Butler was admitted into that lady’s service, how long he continued in it, and why he left it, is, like the other incidents of his life, utterly unknown. The vicissitudes of his condition placed him afterwards in the family of sir Samuel Luke, one of Cromwell’s officers. Here he observed so much of the character of the sectaries, that he is said to have written or begun his poem at this time; and it is likely that such a design would be formed in a place where he saw the principles and practices of the rebels, audacious and undisguised in the confidence of success, At length the king returned, and the time came in which loyalty hoped for its reward. Butler, however, was only made secretary to the earl of Carbury, president of the principality of Wales; who conferred on him the stewardship of Ludlow sastle, when the court of the marches was revived.
In this part of his life, he married Mrs. Herbert, a gentlewoman of a good family; and lived, says Wood, upon her fortune, having studied the common law, but never practised it. A fortune she had, says his biographer, but it was lost by bad securities. In 1663 was published the first part, containing three cantos, of the poem of Hudibras, which, as Prior relates, was made known at court by the taste and influence of the earl of Dorset. When it was known, it was necessarily admired : the king quoted, the courtiers studied, and the whole party of the royalists applauded it. Every eye watched for the golden shower which was to fall upon the author, who certainly was not without his part, in the general expectation. In 1664 the second part appeared; the curiosity of the nation was rekindled, and the writer was again praised and elated. But praise was his whole reward. Clarendon, says Wood, gave him reason to hope for “places and employments of value and credit;” but no such advantages did he ever obtain. It is reported, that the king once gave him three hundred guineas ; but of this temporary bounty I find no proof. Wood relates that he was secretary to Villiers duke of Buckingham, when he was chancellor of Cambridge: this is doubted by the other writer, who yet allows the duke to have been his frequent benefactor. That both these accounts are false there is reason to suspect from a story told by Packe, in his account of the life of Wycherley; and from some verses which Mr. Thyer has published in the author’s remains. “Mr. Wycherley,” says Packe, “ had always laid hold of any opportunity which offered of representing to the duke of Buckingham how well Mr. Butler had deserved of the royal family, by writing his inimitable
Hudibras; and that it was a reproach to the court, that a person of his loyalty and wit should suffer in obscurity, and under the wants he did. The duke always seemed to hearken to him with attention enough ; and, after some time, undertook to recommend his pretensions to his majesty. Mr. Wycherley, in hopes to keep him steady to his word, obtained of his grace to name a day, when he might introduce that modest and unfortunate poet to his new patron. At last an appointment was made, and the place of meeting was agreed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly; the duke joined them; but as the d–l would have it, the door of the room where they sat was open, and his grace, who had seated himself near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance, the creature too was a knight, trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his engagement to follow another kind of business, at which he was more ready than in doing good offices to men of desert; though no one was better qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune and understanding, to protect them; and, from that time to the day of his death, poor Butler never found the least effect of his promise.” Such is the story. The verses are written with a degree of acrimony, such as neglect and disappointment might naturally excite ; and such as it would be hard to imagine Butler capable of expressing against a man who had any claim to his gratitude. Notwithstanding this discouragement and neglect, he still prosecuted his design; and in 1678 published a third part, which still leaves the poem imperfect and abrupt. How much more he originally intended, or with what events the action was to be concluded, it is vain to conjecture. Nor can it be theught strange that he should stop here, however unexpectedly. To write without reward is sufficiently unpleasing. He had now arrived at an age when he might think it proper to be in jest no longer, and perhaps his health might now begin to fail.
He died in 1680; and Mr. Longueville, having unsuccessfully solicited a subscription for his interment in Westminster abbey, buried him at his own cost in the church yard of Covent Garden.” Dr. Simon Patrick read the service.
Granger was informed by Dr. Pearce, who named for his authority Mr. Lowndes of the treasury, that Butler had a yearly pension of an hundred pounds. This is contradicted by all tradition, by the complaints of Oldham, and by the reproaches of Dryden; and am afraid will never be confirmed.
About sixty years afterward, Mr. Barber, a printer, mayor of London, and a friend to Butler’s principles, bestowed on him a monument in Westminster abbey, thus inscribed :
M. S. -
Jo HANNES BARBER, Civis Londinensis, 172,.
* In a note in the “Biographia Britannica,” p. 1075, he is said, on the authority of the younger Mr. Longueville, to have lived for some years in Rose-street, Covent Garden, and also that he died there ; the latter of these particulars is rendered highly probable, *y his being interred in the cemetery of that parish.
After his death were published three small volumes of his posthumous works: I know not by whom collected, or by what authority ascertained;" and lately, two volumes more have been printed by Mr. Thyer of Manchester, indubitably genuine. From none of these pieces can his life be traced, or his character discovered. Some verses, in the last collection, show him to have been among those who ridiculed the institution of the royal society, of which the enemies were for some time very numerous and very acrimonious, for what reason it is hard to conceive, since the philosophers professed not to advance doctrines, but to produce facts; and the most zealous enemy of innovation must admit the gradual progress of experience, however he may oppose hypothetical temerity. In this mist of obscurity passed the life of Butler, a man whose name can only perish with his language. The mode and place of his edacation are unknown; the events of his life are variously related ; and all that can be told with certainty is, that he was poor. The poem of Hudibras is one of those compositions of which a nation may justly boast; as the images which it exhibits are domestick, the sentiments unborrowed and unexpected, and the strain of diction original and peculiar. We must not, however, suffer the pride which we assume as the countrymen of Butler, to make any encroachment upon justice, nor appropriate those honours, which others have a right to share. The poem of Hudibras is not wholly English; the original idea is to be found in the history of Don Quixote ; a book to which a mind of the greatest powers may be indebted without disgrace. Cervantes shows a man, who having, by the incessant perusal of incredible tales, subjected his under
* They were collected into one, and published in 12no, 1732. II