« PreviousContinue »
As Jove's great son th' infested globe did free
Cuidam qui, legendo Scripturam, descripsit formam, sapientiam,
Illustrissimo Viro, Domino Lanceloto Josepho de Maniban, Grammato-manti.
Quis posthàc chartæ committat sensa loquaci,
Si sua crediderit fata subesse stylo ;
Quicquid et in vitâ plus latuisse velit?
Quod non significant verba, figura notat.
Ignaramque manum spiritus intus agit.
Exemplumque meæ simplicitatis erat :
Urbe, lepore, novis, carmine tota scatens.
(Non res, non voces, non ego notus ei)
Scripturæque inhians consulit exta mea.
Explicat (haud Genio plura liquere putem);
Et quo me rapiat cardine Sphæra docet.
Jupiter aut ubi me, Luna, Venusve juvet : &c.
SAMUEL BUTLER, the son of a substantial farmer, † was born at Strensham in Worcestershire, and baptized February 14, 1612. His grammareducation he received at the free school of Worcester; and his father being informed by Mr. Henry Bright the master, that he possessed an acute genius and a ready disposition for learning, resolved to encourage it, and to bring him up to the profession of the law. With this view, he sent him (as it is most probably conjectured) to Cambridge, to pursue his studies : but though he resided six or seven years in that University, he was never matriculated; in consequence, it is said, of his narrow circumstances, which would not permit him to go through the regular gradations of degrees, and to support the other incidental expenses of the place. We are therefore
* AUTHORITIES. General Biographical Dictionary; Grey's Memoirs of Butler; Cibber's Lives of the Poets; and Britisk Biography.
+ His father's property was a house and a little land (as Dr. Nash has discovered) worth about eight pounds a year, still called "Butler's Tenement."
to suppose, that he only attended the public lectures, which at that time (as at present) were numerous and respectable. The accounts of his youth, however, are extremely defective; and we are only told, that when he quitted Cambridge, he became clerk to Mr. Jefferys of Earl's Croom, an eminent Magi. strate for the County of Worcester. With this gentleman he lived some years in great comfort, having leisure to apply himself to his favourite studies and amusements; history, poetry, music, and painting. * He afterward obtained the patronage of Elizabeth Countess of Kent, a lady of considerable learning, and the protectress of men of letters. In her house he not only found an excellent library, but likewise formed an acquaintance with many of her enlightened visitors. Among others he became intimate with Selden, who often employed him in business connected with literature. But in what character, or for how long a period, he served that lady, and why he left her service is, like most of the other incidents of his life, unknown.
His next residence was with Sir Samuel Luke, a gentleman of an ancient family in Bedfordshire, and one of the Generals of Oliver Cromwell. Here he
very probably planned, if he did not also write, the celebrated poem of HUDIBRAS, under which character it is supposed he intended to ridicule his employer. He had indeed, at this time, an opportunity
* Several pictures, traditionally assigned to his pencil, long remained in his first master's family, proving his early inclination to that noble art, for which also he was at a later period highly regarded by the distinguished artist, Mr. Samuel Cooper. Not long afterward, Dr. Nash found they had been employed to stop windows; and adds, that they hardly deserved a better fate!'
of conversing with those living characters of nonsense and hypocrisy, which he so vividly portrays and exposes throughout his whole work.
Some years after the Restoration, he was made Secretary to Richard Earl of Carbery, Lord President of Wales, and appointed Steward of Ludlow Castle; when the Lord President's Court was revived at that place. About the same time, likewise, he married Mrs. Hubert, a widow lady of good family and competent fortune, of which however the greater part, being placed on bad securities, was unfortunately lost: but we have no dates to the few recorded events of his existence, and must therefore be guided in those respects by collateral circumstances. His · Hudibras,' of which the First Part was published in 1663, introduced him, probably, to the notice of the courtiers, and particularly to that poet and patron of learning, the Earl of Dorset. By him it was made known to the King, who often pleasantly quoted it in conversation.
Every eye, says Dr. Johnson, now watched the golden shower which was to fall upon the author, who certainly was not without his share 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. Rochester himself declared :
• I loath the rabble; 'tis enough for me
Alas! praise was his sole reward. Clarendon, says
Wood, gave him reason to hope for “ places and employments of value and credit;” but no such advantage did he ever obtain. Baffled in his views, the man whose wit had delighted and whose satire had tended to reform a nation, was suffered in his old age to struggle with all the calamities of indigence.
Something strikingly similar in the fates of Butler and Cervantes has been pointed out. Both, by the united force of wit and satire, emancipated their respective countries from fanaticism of different kinds : and both, while their works were universally applauded, were suffered, the Spaniard to perish with infirmity and in a prison, and the Englishman (by a destiny to a generous mind as severe) to linger out a long life in precarious dependence. So just is the observation of Juvenal :
facilè emergunt, quorum virtutibus obstat Res angusta domi
s. Slow rises worth, by poverty deprest."
In his • Court Burlesqued' (said to have been written in 1678) which appeared with his · Posthumous Works,' in the characters of Clarendon, Buckingham, Shaftesbury, &c. he had his abundant revenge.
With his slender though honourable appointment under the Lord President of Wales, and his wife's jointure, he appears to have supported himself, while he danced attendance in hopes of preferment or some suitable reward for his poetical services.
Wycherly (a brother poet, then in high favour) seized every opportunity, we are told, of recom