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Wood has his information from his brother, whose narrative placed him at Cambridge, in opposition to that of his neighbours, which sent him to Oxford. The brother's seems the best authority, till, by confessing his inability to tell his hall or college, he gives reason to suspect that he was resolved to beftow on him an academical education ; but durft not name a college, for fear of detection.
He was for some time, according to the author of his Life, clerk to Mr. Jefferys 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 mufick and painting; and the reward of his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated Cooper. Some pictures, said to be his, were shewn to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but, when he enquired for them fome years afterwards, he found them destroyed, to stop windows, and owns that they hardly deserved a better fate.
He was afterwards 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 fo 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 undiiguiled 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 Castle, 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 Hved, says Wood, upon her fortune, having studied the common law, but never practised it. A fortune she had, fays his biographer, but it was loft 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.
5 Mr. Wycherley," says Packe, “ had always laid “ hold of an opportunity which offered of reprea “ senting to the Duke of Buckingham how well Mr. “ Butler had deserved of the Royal Family, by writsing his inimitable Hudibras ; and that it was a ss 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 so time undertook to recommend his pretensions to " his Majesty. Mr. Wycherley, in hopes to keep “ hinn 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-1 would have it, the door “ of the room where they sat was open, and his Grace,
who had feated 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 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.
Granger * In a note in the “ Birgraphia Britannica," p.1075, he is said, on the authority of the younger Mr. Longueville, to have lived for
Granger was informed by Dr. Pearce, who named for his authority Mr. Lowndes of the Treasury, that Butler had an 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 :
objit Lond. 1680.
Cuo fimulatz Religionis Larvam detraxit,
Ne, cui vivo deerant ferè omnia,
Deeffet etiam mortuo Tun:ulus,
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. 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 parith. H.
* They were collected into one, and published in 12mo. 1732. H.