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tire harassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions.
a general, or perches on a standard; but Fame and Victory can do no more. To give them any real employment, or ascribe to them any material agency, is to make them allegorical no longer, but to shock the mind by ascribing effects to nonentity. In the "Prometheus" of Eschylus, we see Violence and Strength, and in the “ Alcestis" of Euripides, we see Death, brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the drama; but no precedents can justify absurdity.
Milton's allegory of Sin and Death is undoubtedly faulty. Sin is indeed the mother of Death, and may be allowed to be the portress of hell; but when they stop the journey of Satan, a journey described as real, and when Death offers him battle, the allegory is broken. That Sin and Death should have shown the way to hell, might have been allowed; but they cannot facilitate the passage by building a bridge, because the difficulty of Satan's passage is de
Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, that it requires the description of what cannot be described, the agency of spirits. He saw that immateriality supplied no images, and that he could not show angels acting but by instruments of action: he therefore invested them with form and matter. This, being necessary, was therefore defensible; and he should have secured the consistency of his system, by keeping immateriality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drop it from his thoughts. But he has unhappily perplexed his poetry with his philosophy. His infernal and celestial powers are sometimes pure spirit, and sometimes animated body. When Satan walks with his lance upon the burning marl, he has a body; when, in his passage between hell and the new world, he is in danger of sinking in the vacuity, and is support-scribed as real and sensible, and the bridge ought ed by a gust of rising vapours, he has a body; when he animates the toad, he seems to be mere spirit, that can penetrate matter at pleasure; when he starts up in his own shape, he has at least a determined form; and when he is brought before Gabriel, he has a spear and a shield, which he had the power of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the contending angels are evidently material.
The vulgar inhabitants of Pandæmonium, being incorporeal spirits, are at large, though without number, in a limited space: yet in the battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, their armour hurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now grown gross by sinning. This likewise happened to the uncorrupted angels, who were overthrown the sooner for their arms, for unarmed they might easily as spirits have evaded by contraction or remove. Even as spirits they are hardly spiritual; for contraction and remove are images of matter; but if they could have escaped without their armour, they might have escaped from it, and left only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, when he rides on a sunbeam, is material; Satan is material, when he is afraid of the prowess of Adam.
The confusion of spirit and matter which pervades the whole narration of the war of heaven, fills it with incongruity; and the book in which it is related is, I believe, the favourite of children, and gradually neglected as knowledge is increased.
After the operation of immaterial agents which cannot be explained, may be considered that of allegorical persons which have no real existence. To exalt causes into agents, to invest abstract ideas with form, and animate them with activity, has always been the right of poetry. But such airy beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their natural office, and retire. Thus Fame tells a tale, and Victory hovers over
to be only figurative. The hell assigned to the rebellious spirits is described as not less local than the residence of man. It is placed in some distant part of space, separated from the regions of harmony and order, by a chaotic waste and an unoccupied vacuity; but Sin and Death worked up a mole of aggravated soil, cemented with asphaltus; a work too bulky for ideal architects.
This unskilful allegory appears to me one of the greatest faults of the poem; and to this there was no temptation but the Author's opinion of its beauty.
To the conduct of the narrative some objections may be made. Satan is with great expectation brought before Gabriel in paradise, and is suffered to go away unmolested. The creation of man is represented as the consequence of the vacuity left in heaven by the expulsion of the rebels; yet Satan mentions it as a report rife in heaven before his departure.
To find sentiments for the state of innocence was very difficult; and something of anticipation, perhaps, is now and then discovered. Adam's discourse of dreams seems not to be the speculation of a new-created being. I know not whether his answer to the angel's reproof for curiosity does not want something of propriety; it is the speech of a man acquainted with many other men. Some philosophical notions, especially when the philosophy is false, might have been better omitted. The angel, in a comparison, speaks of timorous deer, before deer were yet timorous, and before Adam could understand the comparison.
Dryden remarks, that Milton has some flats among his elevations. This is only to say that all the parts are not equal. In every work one part must be for the sake of others; a palace must have passages; a poem must have transitions. It is no more to be required that wit
should always be blazing, than that the sun should always stand at noon. In a great work there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque parts, as there is in the world a succession of day and night. Milton, when he has expatiated in the sky, may be allowed sometimes to revisit earth; for what other author ever soared so high, or sustained his flight so long?
Milton, being well versed in the Italian poets, appears to have borrowed often from them; and, as every man catches something from his companions, his desire of imitating Ariosto's levity has disgraced his work with the "Paradise of Fools;" a fiction not in itself ill-imagined, but too ludicrous for its place.
racter, nor the combinations of concurring, or the perplexity of contending, passions. He had read much, and knew what books could teach; but had mingled little in the world, and was deficient in the knowledge which experience must confer.
Through all his greater works there prevails a uniform peculiarity of diction, a mode and cast of expression which bears little resemblance to that of any former writer; and which is so far removed from common use, that an unlearned reader, when he first opens his book, finds himself surprised by a new language.
This novelty has been, by those who can find nothing wrong in Milton, imputed to his laboHis play on words, in which he delights too rious endeavours after words suitable to the often; his equivocations, which Bentley endea-grandeur of his ideas. “Our language," says vours to defend by the example of the ancients; Addison, "sunk under him." But the truth his unnecessary and ungraceful use of terms of is, that, both in prose and verse, he had formed art, it is not necessary to mention, because they his style by a perverse and pedantic principle. are easily remarked, and generally censured; and He was desirous to use English words with a at last bear so little proportion to the whole, foreign idiom. This in all his prose is discothat they scarcely deserve the attention of a vered and condemned; for there judgment opecritic. rates freely, neither softened by the beauty, nor awed by the dignity, of his thoughts; but such is the power of his poetry, that his call is obeyed without resistance, the reader feels himself in captivity to a higher and a nobler mind, and criticism sinks in admiration.
Such are the faults of that wonderful performance, "Paradise Lost;" which he who can put in balance with its beauties must be considered not as nice but as dull, as less to be censured for want of candour, than pitied for want of sensibility.
"Paradise Lost," may be found in "Comus." One source of his peculiarity was his familiarity with the Tuscan poets; the disposition of his words, is, I think, frequently Italian; perhaps sometimes combined with other tongues.
Milton's style was not modified by his subOf "Paradise Regained," the general judg-ject; what is shown with greater extent in ment seems now to be right, that it is in many parts elegant, and every where instructive. It was not to be supposed that the writer of " Paradise Lost" could ever write without great effusions of fancy; and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of "Paradise Regained" is narrow; a dialogue without action can never please like a union of the narrative and dramatic powers. Had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise.
If "Paradise Regained" has been too much depreciated, "Sampson Agonistes" has in requital been too much admired. It could only be by long prejudice, and the bigotry of learning, that Milton could prefer the ancient tragedies, with their incumbrance of a chorus, to the exhibitions of the French and English stages; and it is only by a blind confidence in the reputation of Milton, that a drama can be praised in which the intermediate parts have neither cause nor consequence, neither hasten nor retard the catastrophe.
In this tragedy are, however, many particular beauties, many just sentiments, and striking lines; but it wants that power of attracting the attention which a well-connected plan produces.
Milton would not have excelled in dramatic writing; he knew human nature only in the gross, and had never studied the shades of cha
Of him, at last, may be said what Jonson says of Spenser, that "he wrote no language," but has formed what Butler calls a "Babylonish dialect," in itself harsh and barbarous, but made by exalted genius and extensive learning the vehicle of so much instruction and so much pleasure, that, like other lovers, we find grace in its deformity.
Whatever be the faults of his diction, he cannot want the praise of copiousness and variety : he was master of his language in its full extent; and has selected the melodious words with such diligence, that from his book alone the art of English poetry might be learned.
After his diction, something must be said of his versification." The measure," he says, "is the English heroic verse without rhyme." Of this mode he had many examples among the Italians, and some in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme ;* and, beside our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in
* The Earl of Surrey translated two books of Vir gil without rhyme, the second and the fourth.-J. B.
blank verse, particularly one tending to reconcile the nation to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written by Raleigh himself. These petty performances cannot be supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably took his hint from Trissino's Italia Liberata; and, finding blank verse easier than rhyme, was desirous of persuading himself that it is better.
style; has neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and therefore tires by long continuance. Of the Italian writers without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as precedents, not one is popular; what reason could urge in its defence has been confuted by the ear.
But, whatever be the advantages of rhyme, I cannot prevail on myself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer; for I cannot wish his work to be other than it is; yet, like other heroes, he is to be admired rather than imitated. He that thinks himself capable of astonishing may write blank verse: but those that hope only to please must condescend to rhyme.
"Rhyme," he says, and says truly, "is no necessary adjunct of true poetry." But, perhaps, of poetry, as a mental operation, metre or music is no necessary adjunct: it is however by the music of metre that poetry has been discriminated in all languages; and, in languages me- The highest praise of genius is original invenlodiously constructed with a due proportion of tion. Milton cannot be said to have contrived long and short syllables, metre is sufficient. But the structure of an epic poem, and therefore one language cannot communicate its rules to owes reverence to that vigour and amplitude of another; where metre is scanty and imperfect, mind to which all generations must be indebted some help is necessary. The music of the Eng- for the art of poetical narration, for the texture lish heroic lines strikes the ear so faintly, that of the fable, the variation of incidents, the init is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every terposition of dialogue, and all the stratagems line co-operate together; this co-operation can that surprise and enchain attention. But, of all be only obtained by the preservation of every the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps verse unmingled with another as a distinct sys- the least indebted. He was naturally a thinker tem of sounds; and this distinctness is obtained for himself, confident of his own abilities, and and preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The disdainful of help or hinderance: he did not revariety of pauses, so much boasted by the lovers fuse admission to the thoughts or images of his of blank verse, changes the measures of an Eng- predecessors, but he did not seek them. From lish poet to the periods of a declaimer; and there his contemporaries he neither courted nor reare only a few skilful and happy readers of Mil-ceived support; there is in his writings nothing ton, who enable their audience to perceive where by which the pride of other authors might be the lines end or begin. "Blank verse," said an in-gratified, or favour gained, no exchange of genious critic, "seems to be verse only to the eye.' praise, nor solicitation of support. His great Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but Eng- works were performed under discountenance, lish poetry will not often please; nor can rhyme and in blindness; but difficulties vanished at his ever be safely spared but where the subject is touch; he was born for whatever is arduous; able to support itself. Blank verse makes some and his work is not the greatest of heroic poems, approach to that which is called the lapidary only because it is not the first.
biographer, in 1612. This account Dr. Nash finds confirmed by the register. He was christened February 14.
Or the great Author of "Hudibras" there is a | Strensham, in Worcestershire, according to his life prefixed to the later editions of his poem, by an unknown writer, and therefore of disputable authority; and some account is incidentally given by Wood, who confesses the uncertainty of his own narrative: more however than they knew cannot now be learned, and nothing remains but to compare and copy them.
His father's condition is variously represented. Wood mentions him as competently wealthy; but Mr. Longueville, the son of Butler's principal friend, says he was an honest farmer with some small estate, who made a shift to educate
Samuel Butler was born in the parish of his son at the grammar-school of Worcester,
under Mr. Henry Bright,* from whose care he removed for a short time to Cambridge; but, for want of money, was never made a member of any college. Wood leaves us rather doubtful whether he went to Cambridge or Oxford; but at last makes him pass six or seven years at Cambridge, without knowing in what hall or college; yet it can hardly be imagined that he lived so long in either university but as belonging to one house or another; and it is still less likely that he could have so long inhabited a place of learning with so little distinction as to leave his residence uncertain. Dr. Nash has discovered that his father was owner of a house and a little land, worth about eight pounds a year still called Butler's tenement.
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 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 bestow on him an academical education; but durst 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 music and painting: and the reward of his pencil was the friendship of the celebrated Cooper. Some pictures, said to be
• These are the words of the author of the short account of Butler prefixed to "Hudibras," which Dr. Johnson, notwithstanding what he says above, seems to have supposed was written by Mr. Longueville, the father; but the contrary is to be inferred from a subsequent passage, wherein the author laments that he had neither such an acquaintance nor interest with Mr. Longueville, as to procure for him the golden remains of Butler there mentioned. He was probably led into the mistake by a note in the Biog. Brit. p. 1077, signifying that the son of this gentleman was living in 1736.
Of this friend and generous patron of Butler, Mr. William Longueville, I find an account, written by a person who was well acquainted with him, to this effect; viz. that he was a conveyancing lawyer, and a bencher of the Inner Temple, and had raised him
self from a low beginning to very great eminence in
that profession; that he was eloquent and learned, of spotless integrity; that he supported an aged father who had ruined his fortunes by extravagance, and by his industry and application re-edified a ruined family; that he supported Butler, who, but for him, must literally have starved; and received from him, as a recompence, the papers called his "Remains." Life of the Lord-keeper Guilford, p. 289.—These have since been given to the public by Mr. Thyer, of Manchester; and the originals are now in the hands of the Rev. Dr. Farmer, master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.-H.
his, were shown to Dr. Nash, at Earl's Croomb; but, when he inquired for them some 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 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 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 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 "Clarendon," praise was his whole reward. says Wood, "6 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 vent-garden.* Dr. Simon Patrick read the serwriter, who yet allows the Duke to have been vice. 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 Re
Granger was informed by Dr. Pearce, who named for his authority Mr. Lowndes of the Treasury, that Butler had a yearly pension of a 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:
Vir doctus imprimis, acer, integer;
“Mr. Wycherley,” says Packe, “had always laid hold of an opportunity which offered of representing to the Duke of Buckingham how well Mr. Bútler 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 devil 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 for-him to have been among those who ridiculed the tune 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 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 churchyard of Co
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
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 do