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“ 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 the 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 thought 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.
* 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
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 I am afraid will never be confirmed.
About sixty years afterwards, Mr. Barber, a printer, Mayor of London, and a friend to Butler's principles, bestowed on him a monument in Westminster Abbey, thus inscribed:
After his death were published three small volumes of his posthumous work: 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
some years in Rose-street, Covent-Garden, and also that he died there; the latter of these particulars is rendered highly probable, by his being interred in the cemetery of that parish. H.
* They were collected into one, and published in 12mo. 1732. H.
none of these pieces can his life be traced, or his character discovered. Some verses, in the last collection, shew 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 education 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 shews a man, who having, by the incessant perusal of incredible tales, subjected his under- standing
standing to his imagination, and familiarised his mind by pertinacious meditation to trains of incredible events, and scenes of impossible existence; goes out in the pride of knighthood to redress wrongs, and defend virgins, to rescue captive princesses, and tumble usurpers from their thrones; attended by a squire, whose cunning, too low for the suspicion of a generous mind, enables him often to cheat his Inaster. - - . The hero of Butler is a Presbyterian Justice, who, in the confidence of legal authority and the rage of zealous ignorance, ranges the country to repress superstition and correct abuses, accompanied by an Independent Clerk, disputatious and obstinate, with whom he often debates, but never conquers him. Cervantes had so much kindness for Don Quixote, that, however he embarrasses him with absurd distresses, he gives him so much sense and virtue as may preserve our esteem; wherever he is, or whatever he does, he is made by matchless dexterity commonly ridiculous, but never contemptible. , But for poor Hudibras, his poet had no tenderness; he chuses not that any pity should be shewn or respect paid him : he gives him up at once to laughter and contempt, without any quality that can dignify or protect him. In forming the character of Hudibras, and describing his person and habiliments, the author seems to labour withatumultuous confusion of dissimilarideas. He had read the history of the mock knights-errant; he knew the motions and manners of a Presbyterian magistrate, and tried to unite the absurdities of both, however however distant, in one personage. Thus he gives him that pedantic ostentation of knowledge which has no relation to chivalry, and loads him with martial encumbrances that can add nothing to his civil dignity. He sends him out a colonelling, and yet never brings him within sight of war. If Hudibras be considered as the representative of the Presbyterians, it is not easy to say why his weapons should be represented as ridiculous or useless; for, whatever judgment might be passed upon their knowledge or their arguments, experience had sufficiently shewn that their swords were not to be despised. The hero, thus compounded of swaggerer and pedant, of knight and justice, is led forth to action, with his squire Ralpho, an Independent Enthusiast. Of the contexture of events planned by the author, which is called the action of the poem, since it is left imperfect, no judgment can be made. It is probable, that the hero was to be led through many luckless adventures, which would give occasion, like his attack upon the bear and fiddle, to expose the ridiculous rigour of the sectaries; like his encounter with Sidrophel and Whacum, to make superstition and credulity contemptible; or, like his recourse to the low retailer of the law, discover the fraudulent practices of different professions. What series of events he would have formed, or in what manner he would have rewarded or punished his hero, it is now vain to conjecture. His work must have had, as it seems, the defeet which Dryden imputes to Spenser; the action could not have