Samuel Butler.

The poetical works of Samuel Butler; online

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Memoir • . ix

Bibliographical and other Notes . . . xxiii

I. Early Editions of Hudibras . . xxiii

A. The First Paxt xxiii

B. The Second Part xxiv

C. The First Two Parts .... xxv

D. The Third Part xxvii

E. Complete Editions. Butler's

**Life" xxviii

11. Illustrated Editions of Hudibras xxix

A. The First Illustrations . . . xxix

B. The Hogarth Illustrations . . xxxii

C. Modem Illustrations .... xxxvi

D. Hieroglyphics xl

III. Some Translations of Hudibras . xli

IV. Spurious Editions xliv

V. Noteworthy Modern Editions . . xlv

VI. The Original of Hudibras . . . xlvii

VII. Other Works by Butler .... li

VIII. Butler Manuscripts Iv

IX. Works sometimes attributed to

Butler Ivii

A. The Posthumous Works . . . Ivii

B. Other Pieces lix

X. Imitations of Hudibras .... Ixiv

A. From the Retrospective Review Ixiv

B. Other Imitations Ixxvi

XI. Early Writers of Hudibrastio

Verse • . • . Ixxix

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XII. (i.) Authorities ON AND References

TO Butler Ixxxii

(ii. ) Earliest Memoir of Butler . xc

(iii.) List of Portraits xcii

(iv.) From "Notes and Queries,"

1st S., V. 5 xciv

(v.) From Pepys' Diary .... xcv
(vi.) Manuscript Notes on Butler


XIII. The Present Edition c

HUDIBRAS ...,••«• 1

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|NE of the youngest of the seven
children of a village churchwarden,
Samuel Butler — the author of " H udi-
bras " — ^passed his life in an obscurity
which enthusiasts have failed to penetrate, and
which was the more remarkable in an age
when the possession of genius was a passport
to society, and the lives of men of letters
were partially recorded in the correspondence
or biographies of the courtiers and statesmen
with whom they associated. There were men
who wrote lives of Butler because they knew
his friends, but they had little to say, and were
concerned mainly in contradicting each other.
The neighbours of the poet are quoted in evi-
dence against the statements of his brother,
and the son of his best friend has been proved
wrong about the date of his birth.

Upon the last point Dr. Nash has estab-
' lished the correctness of the more usual view
by finding the record of Butler's baptism in
the parish registers of Strensham, Worcester-
shire, as inserted by his father. It appears,

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then, that he was christened on February
8th, 1612, and was presumably bom in the
same year. But his biographers are by no
means agreed concerliing his station in life ;
some maintaining that the elder Samuel Butler
was in the possession of a competent estate of
dS300 a year, and others describing him as a
yeoman who had a struggle to pay for his
boy's schooling. Dr. Nash points out that he
wrote a good hand and owned a convenient
property, afterwards known as Butler's Tene-
ment, which was worth about £10 a year.

From the parental roof, whether humble or
dignified, Butler went to the King's School at
Worcester, under Mr. Henry Bright,^ preben-
dary of the Cathedral, and pedagogue of fair
renown, " who made his business his delight ;
and, though in very easy circumst,ances, con-
tinued to teach for the sake of doing good, by
benefiting the families of the neighbourhood,
who thought themselves happy in having their
sons instructed by him." The learning of
Samuel Butler afibrds no small testimony to
the value of his teaching, for this was probably
the only education that the poet received,
though he is connected with both Cambridge
and Oxford by tradition.

Butler's first employment was as clerk to
Mr. Jefferies, M.P., of Earl's Croome, in Wor-
cestershire, where he occupied his leisure in
drawing portraits which attracted the notice
of Samuel Cooper, " the prince of limners of

^ Concerning whom see " Fuller's Worthies,'* p. 177.

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his age," but were subsequently used to stop
np broken windows ; and they had apparently
no claims to resent such a position.

"He was after this recommended to that
great Encourager of learning, Elizabeth, Coun-
tess of Kent, where he had not only the oppor-
tunity to consult all manner of Learned Books,
but to converse also with that living Library
of Learning, the Great Mr. Selden.*' He is
said to have been Selden's amanuensis, but,
according to Mr. Thyer, quarrelled with him
in later life.

In this household he studied books, and the
opportunity soon came of studying humanity.
Under circumstances and for reasons which are
now unknown, he moved into the service of a
rigid Presbyterian, Sir Samuel Luke, of Oople
Hoo, where, as Mr. Milnes points out, ^* it is
curious to think of the consummate prudence
and ability he must have possessed, to enable
him to wait and watch in silence and make no
sign, the smile suppressed upon his lip, and the
biting jest stored up in his unfailing memory,
or secretly committed to paper ; mixing freely
with the assemblies for war, for prayer, for
council, so frequent in the house of his em-
ployer, yet in that age of universal suspicion
noticing all things, revealing nothing." One
does not imagine that Butler was a zealot in
hifl youth who became disgusted by the excesses
of his comrades.^ Life must have been to him

^ This view is borne out by the bitterness of his satires
on the royalists.

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from the beginning a game on which he staked
nothing, and where he only played his part
with such assumption of interest as might be
needful to lull any suspicion of his being no
more than a spectator.

It is not known how long he remained with
the parliamentary party, nor under what cir-
cumstances he left them. At one time he
studied law, but never practised it, and Dr.
Nash has printed the records of a visit to
France which Butler did not enjoy, declaring
that the people " talk so much that they have
not time to think ; and if they had all the wit
in the world, their tongues would run before it."

After the Restoration he became secretary
to E/ichard, Earl of Carbury, Lord President
of the Principality of Wales, and was made
steward of Ludlow Castle.^ About this time
he married a Mrs. Herbert, whom readers
of " Hudibras " have naturally supposed to
have been a widow. Nothing, however, can
be affirmed of her as even probable beyond the
possession of some property. This may have
induced Butler to give up his employment,
but it is supposed to have been afterwards lost
by failing securities.

It would seem that Butler had played his
cards well during the civil war, and emerged
with no loss of caste from his puritanical
surroundings. But this was not all. He had
that in reserve which the turn of events invited

^ See below, " Bibliog. and other Notes," Section XIL
p. xciv.

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him to make public. The iron hand of the Pro-
tector was no longer over the land, and earnest-
ness had become a laughing-stock. Hitherto
Butler had been only an observer of the strug-
gle, but now that derision was the fashion
he determined at last to bid for himself, and to
seek returns more solid than amusement. His
materials were ready; and collecting, some-
what hastily perchance,^ the notes which he had
jotted down on the battle-field, grouping them
after the manner of Cervantes, and seasoning
his satire from the stores of his unparalleled
learning, he produced a work which for the
moment echoed the voice of the nation, and
found words for its scorn. " Hudibras *'
appeared, and England claimed her own.

The book was taken up everywhere. Pepys,
the time-server, had to buy it, and read it too,
though he could not discover where its wit
lay. Dorset introduced it at court,^ and the
merry monarch was unmeasured in his praise,
carrying " Hudibras " in his pocket, and
quoting it on every occasion. Imitators arose
to rival the favourite poet, and spurious second
parts flooded the market. Under the stimulus
of such a unique popularity, Butler prepared
and published his own Part II., which met with
an equally flattering reception.

^ Mr. Milnes has carefully pointed out some internal
evidence for supposing that different parts of ** Hudibras "
were composed at different times, and his arguments
appear conclusive.

* Says Prior.

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And then "a change came o'er the spirit
of his dream." Man cannot live by fame alone,
and the sale of his poetry is seldom of much
apsistance. Those at any rate were the days
of patronage. Butler expected preferment, and
was disappointed. Whether or no he was ever
secretary to the Duke of Buckingham/ whether
or no the King ever gave him £3,000 or £300,
and whether or no the Earl of Clarendon
promised him places, it is now impossible to
determine. At all events, Butler considered
himself neglected, and some of his contem-
poraries were of the same opinion. Nash says
that he twice copied into his Commonplace
Book Otway's distich: —

** To think how Spenser died, how Cowley moum'd.
How Butler's faith and service were return*d,"

while Dryden and Oldham have left records of
their indignation at the treatment he received.
It is very difficult indeed to estimate how
far Butler gained the friendship of either
literary men or courtiers. He must have met
the Earl of Dorset once, when that nobleman
compared him to a nincpin ; he is supposed
to have assisted in the composition of the
" Rehearsal," and to have contributed to the
*' Examiner," while the anecdote, reported by
Major Packe, of Wycherley's attempt to secure
his introduction at court, seems to point to some

» See Butler's " character '* of him, " Remains," ii. 72, to
which Dr. Johnson and others refer as his " Verses" on

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degree of intimacy between the poet and the
dramatist. Charles II., moreover, must cer-
tainly have been in his company, for he declared
that he did not believe such a dull fellow could
be the author of " Hudibras," a scepticism per-
haps assumed as some cover for his neglect of

Butler was probably not an easy man to
patronize. Many persons must have been
afraid of him, and we are told that he only un-
bent under the influence of the bottle. Dorset
got Fleetwood Shepherd to introduce him " in
the character only of a common friend," and
then declared that Butler was " like a nine-pin,
little at both ends, but great in the middle,"
because " whilst the first bottle was drinking
he appeared very flat and heavy, at the second
bottle, full of wit and learning, but before the
third bottle was finished, he sunk again into
stupidity and dulness." Anthony Wood indeed
pronounced him a " boon and witty companion,
especially among the company he loved well ; "
and Aubrey says that "he was a good fellow,"
adding, however, " satyricall wits disoblige
whom they converse with, etc., consequently
make to themselves many enemies and few
friends, and this was his manner and case."
Longueville speaks of his great modesty, but
his reserve is more likely to have been the
result of pride. Though fond of a " cheerful
glass," he was no drunkard, and, according to
all accounts, led a life of strict integrity.
Aubrey describes him as "of middle stature.

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strong sett, high coloured, a head of sorrell
hair; '* and again, "of a leonine-coloured hair,
sanguine, choleric, middle-sized, strong."

Whatever his associates and the manner of
his life may have been, Butler did not publish
the third part of his " Hudibras " till fourteen
years after the appearance of the second part,
when he had drifted apparently into want and
obscurity ; and he died two years later in Kose
Street, Covent Gurden, in his sixty-ninth year.
His death has been attributed to various causes,
consumption, old age, or the want of proper

He was buried in the adjacent parish
church of St. Paul, Covent Garden, in the pre-
sence of about twenty-five friends; and forty .
years later the printer, Mr. Barber, erected
a monument in Westminster Abbey to his

Any curiosity that may have been felt con-
cerning possible " Posthumous Works " by the
author of " Hudibras " had to remain un-
satisfied till 1715, when a worthless collection ^
was presented to the public under that title.
Most of its contents however were spurious,
and the " Genuine Remains of Samuel Butler "
did not appear till 1759, when Mr. Thyer, of
Manchester, published a portion of the manu-
scripts which had come to him through the Lon-
guevilles. These pieces, particularly those in
prose, are by no means unworthy of the author

* See " Bibliog. Notes," Section XIT. p. xcvii aeq,

* See « Bibliog. Notes," Section IX. p. Ivii seq.

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of " Hudibras," althoagh it is npou that work
that his fame mast rest.

What then are the distinguishing charac-
teristics of " Hudibras " ? The popularity it
attained just after the Restoration affords no
testimony to its merits, for a very inferior
work, with the same object, might then have
been equally successful. To-day it is not
>tead, and to a large extent would not be under-
stood. Yet it is living still, for it was the
work of an original genius. Its phrases have
passed into the language, and everyone is
familiar with certain passages from it. The
term Hudibrastic has a recognized meaning,
though it is obvious that Butler borrowed
much from Cervantes, and though it appears
(" Bibliog. Notes," p. Ixxix) that the peculiar
jingle of his rhythm and rhyme was not, strictly
speaking, original.

" The Hudibrastic " it was stated long ago,
in the " Grub Street Journal," No. 39, "is to
differ from the Epic, as comedy does from
tragedy. It must be narrative, like the Epic ;
it must, like that species of Poem, have its
fable, its variety of characters, and its proper
style ; but all these in such a manner as to
move, not terror or compassion, as in tragedy,
but laughter, as in comedy. The FMe must
be formed by the narration of one, entire,
ridiculous action ; the characters must be such
as either occur in low life or are in their own
nature odd and ridiculous ; and these in as
great variety as possible ; and the style or lan-

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gnage must be contrived so as to heighten the
ridiculousness of the representation/'

In one word the Hudibrastic is a mock-
Epic, and the above definition gives due em-
phasis to the important point that everything
therein must be subservient to the main object
of ridicule. The irregularity of the rhythm,
the uncouth language, and the startling rhymes
are directed towards this end, while even the
too frequent coarseness of the allusions may
be said to heighten the desired eflfect. Butler
seems to gather up his whole energy to the
overburdening of each sentence with point,
and as Hume declares,^ *' though scarcely any
author was ever able to express his thoughts
in so few words, he often employs too many
thoughts on one subject, and thereby becomes
prolix after an unusual manner." He has
moreover debased his own wit and learning
to lessen the dignity of his hero.

'Hudibras himself is the personification of
humbug. Save for his accompanying squire
and steed, his attributes and adventures bear
little or no resemblance to those of his proto-
type Don Quixote. He starts upon a crusade
of reform, but pursues it after a fashion that
would inspire us with the strongest disgust if
it were meant to be taken seriously.

He is at once a fool and a knave, a brag and

a coward, a preacher of unclean life, and a

magistrate without any conception of justice,

pledged to restrain all licenses but his own.

* "History of England," viii. 297.

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He is a whining Pharisee and a fat-paunched
Justice, the slave of a stupid passion for a
widow's jointure, the dupe of soothsayers and
lawyers, a knight-errant with the capacities of
a tin-soldier. He harangues his enemies on
the battle-field after the manner of a Homeric
hero, and garnishes his speech with volumes
of misapplied erudition. He will chop logic
till he is hoarse, and refine upon a definition till
it vanishes under his touch. The Squire Ralph
has none of the faithfulness or shrewdness of
Sancho, and differs from his master in nothing
but theological opinions. They are dressed in
the guise of Puritans, but the blindest pre-
judice could scarcely have failed to recognize
the intentional exaggeration.

Butler's power is in hard-hitting, and he
does not much care what elements he intro-
duces to strengthen the blow. He never misses
absurdities, but carefully separating them from
any sincerity or good feelings with which, in
real individuals, they may have been combined,
flings them all pell-mell upon the shoulders of
his creations, who are thus little more than pegs
for his satire. As Hallam frankly put it : * —
" In the fiction of * Hudibras ' there was never
much to divert the reader, and there is still
less left at present. But what has been cen-
sured as a fault, the length of the dialogue,
which puts the fiction out of sight, is in fact the
source of all the pleasure that the work affords.
The sense of Butler is masculine, his wit in-
* Hallam'8 "Literature of Europe," 1854, iii. 473.

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exhaustible, and it is supplied from every source
of reading and observation. But these sources
are often so unknown to the reader that the
wit loses its effect through the obscurity of its
allusions, and he yields to the bane of wit, a
purblind mole-like pedantry."

The mention of Butler's obscure allusions
reminds us of the additional difficulty which has
been ingeniously thrown in the way of their
interpretation, by supposing that every passage
in " Hudibras " has an allegorical bearing.
But. surely the direct satire is sufficiently
comprehensive. Here are burlesques upon
the poetic intervention of gods and goddesses,
the rhymester's trick of an echo, the bombast
of conventional dedications,^ and the artificiality
of a /* rustic muse." Lawyers, doctors, and
men of science fare no better than preachers
and politicians. Every foible of humanity is
laid under requisition. Only the honest man,
if he exist, is spared, and no sneer has passed
the poet's lips against religion or morality.

There may be evidence in " Hudibras " and
"The Remains" that Butler could have written
tender or dignified poetry, but it is folly to
suppose that in the composition of his great

* So in his " Criticisms upon books and authors" (British
Museum Manuscript 32625, fol. 202) we find: — "My
writings are not set off with the ostentation of Prologue,
Epilogue, nor Preface, nor sophisticated with songs and
dances, nor music nor fine women between the cantos ; nor
have anything to commend them but the plain downright-
ness of the style."

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burlesque his genius was not at home. Yet,
it may be asked, can " Hndibras " be worthy
of our admiration, for it struck at those that
were down, and was not tempered with justice
or mercy ? The question involves a miscon-
ception of Butler's aims and methods, which
were literary and not moral. We call him
great, because of the unflagging diligence and
faithfulness with which he carried them out,
his respect' for good work, and his belief in

If we knew nothing of his Commonplace
Books with their endless copyings and re-
copyings, if we were unable to trace his re-
visions in the second edition of " Hudibras," the
poem itself would bear witness to his patience
and thoroughness. While the cares of State
and the claims of Eeligion were driving art
and literature out of men's minds, there re-
mained one who, in the midst of wars and
rumours of wars, turned not his hand from
the plough, but with singleness of eye, and
tenacity of hold, kept his mind upon the acquire-
ment of knowledge and the perfection of style.
Surrounded by men of action, he clung to
thought. Without burying himself among
books he spent his life in their service, and
courted the muse on the battle-field or in the

And in later years, when a portion of his
work was before the world, when he had been
first applauded and then forgotten, the crafts-
man did not neglect his workshop, but strove

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still upon his task. The inattention and in-
gratitude of men conld not move him, and for
himself, as for ns, the labour was not in vain,

Reginald Brimley Johnson.

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A. The First Part.

I. HuDiBRAS: the Jirst part, written in the time
of the Late Wars. London, Printed by Ji G.
for Richard Harriot, vmder St, Dtmstan^s Church
in Fleet Street, 1663. P. 268.

Invprimatur Jo, Birkenhead Nov. 11, 1662.

4" X 61-".
[This contains a list of errata, and a design of a wreath
on the title-page.]

II. HuDiBRAS : the first part, written in the

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Online LibrarySamuel ButlerThe poetical works of Samuel Butler; → online text (page 1 of 22)