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dental desire, or of sudden necessity, is beyond the reach and power of the most active. and comprehensive mind. I am informed by Mr. Thyer of Manchester, the excellent editor of this author's reliques, that he could fhew something like Hudibras in prose. ' He has in his possession the common-place book, in which Butler reposited, not such events or precepts as are gathered by reading, but such remarks, fimilitudes, allusions, assemblages, or inferences, as occasion prompted, or meditation produced, those thoughts that were generated in his own mind, and might be usefully applied to some future purposes Such is the labour of those who write for immortality.
But human works are not eafily found without a perishable part. Of the ancient poets every reader feels the mythology tedious and oppressive. Of Hudibras, the manners, being founded on opinions, are temporary and local, and therefore become every day less intelligible, and less striking. What Cicero says of philosophy is true likewise of wit and humour, that " time effaces the fictions of o opinion, and confirms the determinations
of Nature.” Such manners as depend upon standing relations and general paflions are co-extended with the race of man ; but those modifications of life, and peculiarities of practice, which are the progeny of error and perverseness, or at best of some accidental influence or transient persuasion, must perish with their parents.
Much therefore of that humour which transported the century with merriment is loft to us, who do not know the four folemnity, the sullen superstition, the gloomy moroseness, and the stubborn scruples, of the ancient Puritaris; or, if we knew them, derive our information only from books, or from tradi. tion, have never had them before our eyes, and cannot but by recollection and study understand the lines in which they are satyrised. Our grandfathers knew the picture from the life ; we judge of the life by contemplating the picture.
It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and composure of the present time, to image the tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradiction, which perplexed doctrine, disordered
practice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, in that age when subordination was broken, and he was hissed away; when any unsettled innovator who could batch a half-formed notion produced it to the publick; when every man might become a preacher, and almost every preacher could collect a congregation.
The wisdom of the nation is very reasona. bly supposed to reside in the parliament. What can be concluded of the lower claffes of the people, when in one of the parliaments suinmoned by Cromwell it was seriously proposed, that all the records in the Tower should be burnt, that all memory of things paft should be effaced, and that the whole system of life should commence anew?
We have never been witnesses of animofi. ties excited by the use of mince pies and plumb-porridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those who could eat them at all other times of the year would shrink from them in December. An old Puritan, who was alive in
my childhood, being at one of the feasts of the church invited by a neighbour to partake
his cheer, told him, that, if he would treat him at an althouse with beer, brewed for all times and se..sons, he should accept his kind. ness, but would have none of his superstitious meats and drinks.
One of the puritanical tenets was the illegality of all games of chance; and he that reads Gataker
see how much learning and reason one of the first scholars of his age thought neceffary, to prove that it was no crime to throw a dyc, or play at cards, or to hide a shilling for the reckoning.
Astrology, however, against which so much of the satire is directed, was not more the folly of the Puritans than of others. It had in that time a very extensive dominion. Its predictions railed hopes and fears in minds which ought to have rejected it with contempt. In hazardous undertakings care was taken to begin under the influence of a propitious planet; and when the king was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an astrologer was consulted what hour would be found most favourable to an escape. 5
What effect this poem had upon the publick, whether it shamed imposture, or reclaimed credulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can seldom stand long against laughter. It is certain that the credit of planetary intelligence wore fast away; though some men of knowledge, and Dryden among them, continued to believe that conjunctions and oppositions had a great part in the distribution of good or evil, and in the government of sub. lunary things.
Poetical Action ought to be probable upon certain suppositions, and such probability as burlesque requires is here violated only by one incident. Nothing can fhew more plainly the necessity of doing something, and the difficulty of finding something to do, than that Butler was reduced to transfer to his hero the flagellation of Sancho, not the most agreeable fiction of Cervantes; very suitable indeed to the manners of that
and nation, which ascribed wonderful efficacy to voluntary penances ; but so remote from the practice nd opinions of the Hudibrastic time, that judgement and imagination are alike offended.