« PreviousContinue »
The neglect of such a man was a deep disgrace to that profligate reign, and it was keenly resented by some of his fellow bards, particularly Oldham, who in his satire against poetry has these strong
“ On Butler who can think without just rage
• Butler was a man of a reserved disposition and very select in his choice of company, which un
While Butler, needy wretch ! was yet alive,
Butler, however, though neglected in a shameful manner, was not starved to death.
obtrusiveness of manners might probably be one cause of his poverty.
One of his principal friends was the Earl of Dorset, the Mecenas of his age, of whom this anecdote is told ;
His lordship having a great desire to spend an evening as a private gentleman with the author of Hudibras, prevailed with Mr. Fleetwood Shepherd to introduce him into his company at a tavern which they used, in the character only of a cominon friend ; this being done, Mr. Butler, while the first bottle was drinking, appeared very flat and heavy; at the second bottle brisk and lively, full of wit and learning, and a most pleasant agreeable companion; but before the third bottle was finished, he sunk again into such deep stupidity and dulness that hardly any body could have believed hiin to be the author of a book which abounded with so much wit, learning, and pleasantry. Next morning Mr. Shepherd asked his lordship's opinion of Mr. Butler, who answered, “ He is like a nine-pin, litile at both ends, but great in the middle.”
An attempt was made to obtain for Butler the patronage of George Villiers Duke of Buckingham, but it failed. The story is as follows :
• Mr.Wycherley had always laid hold of any opportunity which offered, to represeot to his grace how well Mr. Butler had deserved of the royal family by writing his iniinitable ludibras; 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 seemed always 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 at 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 none was better qualified than he, both in regard to his fortune and understanding to protect them, and from that hour, to the day of his death poor Butler never found the least effect of his promise."*
Voltaire gives the following character of Butler's great work: “I never met with so much wit in one single book as in this ; which at the same time is the most difficult to be
* Wy cherley's Posthumous Works in the memoirs, p. 6.