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person about the Court considered it his duty to make himself familiar with Hudibras. It was minted into proverbs and bon mots. No book was so much read. No book was so much cited. From the palace it found its way at once into the chocolate houses and taverns; and attained so rapid a popularity that it was pirated within a month of its original publication.*
Pepys gives us a curious illustration of the sudden and extraordinary success of Hudibras. Hearing it much talked of, he bought a copy of it at the Temple for half-a-crown; when he came to read it, however, he thought it ‘so silly an abuse of the presbyter knight going to the wars,' that he was quite ashamed of it, and sold it to a gentleman he met at dinner for eighteenpence. But he could not escape the praises of the poem. Wherever he went he found it cried up as the example of wit;' and out of humour with himself for being out of the fashion, he bought a second copy about ten days afterwards in the Strand. With all his efforts, however, to accommodate his opinions to those of the world in which he moved, he acknowledges that he could not bring himself to think it witty.' Nevertheless, when the second part came out, he was again so much pressed by the excitement it occasioned that he felt it necessary to his own reputation to read
employment.'-AUBREY. Evelyn, writing to Pepys in August, 1689, speaks of Butler's portrait as being hung in the Chancellor's diningroom; and, what was most agreeable to his lordship's general humour, old Chaucer, Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, who were both in one piece, Spenser, Mr. Waller, Cowley, Hudibras, which last was placed in the room where he used to eat and dine in public, most of which, if not all, are at Cornbury, in Oxfordshire.' Butler was constantly called Hudibras by his contemporaries. He is so called by Dryden.-See post, p. 26.
* The fact is recorded in the following advertisement, which appeared in the Mercurius Aulicus of January 1–8, 1662 :- There is stolen abroad a most false imperfect copy of a poem called Hudibras, without name either of printer or bookseller, as fit for so lame and spurious an impression. The true and perfect edition, printed by the author's original, is sold by Richard Marriot, under St. Dunstan's Church in Fleet-street. That other nameless impression is a cheat, and will but abuse the buyer, as well as the author, whose poem deserves to have fallen into better hands.'
it, so he went to Paul's Churchyard, and there looked upon it;' but, prudently reso'ving not to lay out any more money on a production for which he had so little relish, he made up his mind to borrow it. Even this ingenious stratagem failed him. It was impossible to evade a satire which was in the mouth of everybody he met, and, accordingly, finding himself again in St. Paul's Churchyard a few days afterwards, he bought both parts, as being the book now in greatest fashion, though,' he adds, 'I cannot, I confess, see where the wit lies.'*
A work which supplied such an inexhaustible fund of amusement to the Court and the people, and, by the force of its inimitable ridicule, crowned the triumph of the Cavalier party with a new popularity, might be supposed to have brought some substantial advantages to its author, or at least to have rescued him from the anomalous condition of being at once famous and indigent. There is reason to believe, however, that the only favours he ever received from the King, the Chancellor, or any other quarter, were praises which excited his hopes, and promises which were never fulfilled.
It is said that the King bestowed a gratuity upon him; but the anecdote is accompanied by details which render it incredible, and which, if true, show that the benevolence of his Majesty bore no proportion to the necessities it professed to relieve. As the story runs, Charles II. ordered Butler a donation of £3000, which, considering the state of his Majesty's exchequer, the illustrious prodigality with which its funds were squandered upon courtezans, and the parsimony with which they were administered to the wants of men of genius, may be regarded, without much hesitation, as a pure fable. The order was written in figures, and some person to whose hands it was confided cut off a cipher, and reduced the amount to £300. In this mutilated form it passed through the public offices, free of fees, at the solicitation of Mr. Longueville ;* but Butler, being overwhelmed with debts, requested that gentleman to disburse the money amongst his creditors, so that the grant-supposing it to have been really made—never reached his hands. The grounds upon which this anecdote may be confidently rejected are obvious. That any person should have ventured to deface the King's warrant is as unlikely as that the King granted a warrant for so enormous an amount; and that the story, in this shape, was either unknown to Butler's biographers, or totally disbelieved by them, may be inferred from the fact that none of them allude to it, with the single exception of Chalmers, who does not appear to have believed it himself. The whole merit claimed for the King by any of the writers of Butler's life is that he bestowed a gratuity of £300 upon the poet; but if we trace this statement to its origin, we shall find that it rests on no better foundation than that of a loose report. The earliest notice of it occurs in the pleasant, but not always reliable, pages of Aubrey, who says that the King and the Chancellor promised Butler “great matters, but to this day he has got no employment, only the King gave him ... lib.' It is clear from the careless way in which this piece of information is communicated, that Aubrey merely repeated the idle gossip of the day, without being able to verify the fact, or supply the particulars. The writer of the Life prefixed to the edition of 1710 makes no reference to such a gratuity, nor to any bounty of any kind bestowed by the King on Butler; and the sum of £300 is specifically mentioned for the first time in the General Dictionary, published in 1734-41. The genealogy of the tradition is fatal to its authenticity; and of the subsequent biographers who have repeated it, Dr. Nash alone considers it entitled to
* Not long afterwards Pepys happened to meet Mr. Seamour, a commissioner of prizes and a parliament man, whom he describes as being "mighty high,' and he cannot sufficiently express his astonishment at hearing this gentleman quote Hudibras in the presence of Lord Brouncker and Sir John Minnes. The only way he could account for it was that Hudibras was the book he had read most; which is extremely probable.
* This story is related in a note by Chalmers, without any reference • to the source from whence it was derived.
credit. Dr. Johnson casually refers to it as a report, and is careful to add that he can find no proof of its truth.
It is also said at second-hand, on the authority of Mr. Lowndes, who was Secretary to the Treasury in the reigns of King William and Queen Anne, that Charles II. allowed Butler a pension of £100 a year.* This statement is not only unsupported by a shred of evidence, but is contradicted in a very remarkable manner by all the evidence we possess. If Butler enjoyed a pension, it must have been known to Mr. Longueville, or some of his other friends ; but Mr. Longueville, who appears to have communicated all the particulars he knew, evidently never heard of it, and there is no fact in the life of Butler so unanimously testified by his contemporaries as the fact that he was neglected by the party he served, and that he died in want. It was patent and notorious at the time ;t it is almost the only fact about which no doubt
* Dr. Zachary Pearce, bishop of Rochester, communicated this statement to Granger, who published it in his Bio. Hist., iv. 40, third edition. Dr. Nash quotes and adopts it, and seems to think that, under such circumstances, the outcry of the indigent poets against the Court for its treatment of Butler was rather unreasonable. It is curious that in the edition of Granger, from which the quotation is here taken, that of 1779 in all probability the same that was consulted by Dr. Nash), the amount of the pension is printed thus, 100 l., leaving a blank as if a third cipher had dropped out, so that the reader would be quite justified in supposing that the pension was £1000, which would, no doubt, represent the fact as accurately as £100.
In the following passage from the contemporary poem entitled Hudibras at Court, the case of Butler is plainly stated.
Now, you must know, Sir Hudibras
exists; it was proclaimed from the stage four years after Butler's death in words which had received his own sanction ;* it was made a common theme of reproach by the poets and writers of the Restoration, and chiefly by those who were attached to the Court, and whose testimony on such a point is above suspicion ;t it was recorded by Voltaire, in his
Nor yet to visit concubine,
A poor reward for loyalty !
OTWAY—Prologue to Constantine the Great, 1684. These lines, written by a royalist poet who, himself, died of starvation in the following year, were not spoken on the stage till after Butler's death, as the date shows; but it appears, from a passage in Dr. Nash's preface to Hudibras, that they were written during his lifetime, and sanctioned by his adoption, Butler having twice transcribed them, with a slight variation, in his MS. common place book. Although Butler's fidelity to his principles restrained him from making his own case a ground of direct complaint against the king and his advisers, the reader cannot fail to perceive that the Third Part of Hudibras, published in
he must have relinquished all hope of reward. is full of satirical allusions to the follies and vices of the Court. In these allusions we cannot detect the language of a pensioner.
On Butler who can think without just rage,