페이지 이미지
PDF

account of Hudibras, on the authority of our then current literary history;* and if additional evidence were necessary

But what reward for all had he at last,
After a life in dull expectance passed ?
The wretch at summing up his misspent days
Found nothing left, but poverty and praise ;
Of all his gains by verse he could not save
Enough to purchase flannel and a grave;
Reduced to want, he in due time fell sick,
Was fain to die, and be interred on tick;
And well might bless the fever that was sent,

To rid him hence, and his worse fate prevent.-OLDHAM. Oldham was contemporary with Butler, and survived him only three years. These lines were quoted by Winstanley, also a contemporary, as an illustration of the treatment men of letters received from the Court, in the preface to his Lives of the Poets, licensed in June, 1686.

Aubrey says that, in the latter part of his life, Butler had no employment, and died in want.'

But, perhaps, the most remarkable contemporary authority on this subject is Roger North, the author of the Examen, who says in his Life of Lord Guildford, Mr. Longueville was the last patron and friend that poor old Butler, the author of Hudibras, had, and in his old age he supported him ; otherwise he might have been literally starved.'

Dryden bears the following testimony to Butler's destitution, and makes the skilful Hind throw the blame upon the church :

Unpitied Hudibras, your champion friend,
Has shown how far your charities extend;
This lasting verse shall on his tomb be read,
• He shamed you living, and upbraids you dead.'

Hind and Panther. In a letter, conjectured to have been written about 1683, to the Earl of Rochester, Dryden pleading his own distresses, again alludes to the case of Butler— It is enough for one age to have neglected Mr. Cowley, and starved Mr. Butler !—and this, too, while Ch occupied the throne.

Butler,' says Dennis,' was starved at the same time that the king had his book in his pocket.' 'Was not his book,' says Colley Cibber, • always in the pocket of his prince? And what did the mighty prowess of this knight-errant amount to? Why, he died, with the highest esteem of the Court, in a garret.'

To these passages may be added the following lines by Butler him. self, which may be presumed to have a direct reference to his own experience:

Great wits have only been preferred
In princes' trains to be interred ;
And, when they cost them nothing, placed
Among their followers not the last;
But, while they lived, were far enough

From all admittances kept off.- Misc. Thoughts. * * Butler tournait les ennemis du roi Charles II. en ridicule, et toute

to prove that Butler lived and died in destitution, it might be found inscribed upon his monument. Had Butler been in the receipt of a pension, it is not to be believed that his contemporaries should all have concurred in representing that he was nearly reduced to starvation by neglect; and that which was unknown to them cannot be implicitly accepted on the mere assertion of Mr. Lowndes, a hundred and twenty years afterwards.

It is unnecessary to seek in Butler's work, or in his opinions, the causes of the indifference with which he was treated, for it must be allowed that the Court was perfectly impartial in its neglect of literary claims. Otherwise we might discover in the subject of his poem, and the integrity of his religious convictions, some suggestions of a special reason for consigning him to poverty. Hudibras came too late to render much practical service to the royalists. The struggle was over, the victory was won, the adherents of Cromwell were dispersed or dead, and the utmost that the ridicule of the poet could effect was to disinter the ascetic dogmas and dismal manners of Puritanism, and hold them up to derision and contempt. This was something; but it was an inferior merit to that of aiding in the contest, and contributing to the triumph, or to the still more valuable talent which was available for present and future uses. They, however, who, like Cowley, suffered in the Civil Wars, or, like Dryden, laboured zealously under the Restoration, fared little better. Nor can it be reasonably supposed that Butler's uncompromising Protestantism * had anything

la récompense qu'il en eut fut que le roi citait souvent ses vers. Les combats du chevalier Hudibras furent plus connus que les combats des anges et des diables du Paradis perdu; mais la cour d'Angleterre ne traita pas mieux le plaisant Butler, que la cour céleste ne traita le sérieux Milton, et tous deux moururent de faim ou à peu près.' Lettres sur les Anglais.

* Butler has freely expressed his opinions of the Church of Rome in prose and verse. Here are a few examples from his Miscellaneous Thoughts

The Roman Mufti with his triple crown
Does both the earth, and hell, and heaven own,
Beside th’imaginary territory,
He lays a title to in Purgatory;

to do with the ingratitude of royalty, since Charles found it convenient to make the same profession himself, and his successor ascended the throne with a pledge to maintain the Established Church, Upon the whole, there was nothing peculiar, or exceptional, in the case of Butler. He shared the same fate which, with greater or lesser severity, descended upon all the writers who supported the cause of the Stuarts.

In Butler's case the neglect of the Court was rendered conspicuous by the approbation of the people. But from this source, whatever consolation it may have yielded to his feelings, he derived little solid benefit. The avidity with which the poem was read, and the curiosity that looked impatiently for its sequel, generated a singular kind of literary fraud. The First Part was not only pirated, as already mentioned, but was followed by a spurious Second Part, which ran through three editions within the year, succeeded by another containing a continuation of the third canto. The author of Hudibras had introduced a new style of satire, which presented irresistible temptations to the small poets of the day. His ludicrous double rhymes, his short measure, and his familiar diction, would have been striking as novelties at any time; and it may be easily conceived that they were peculiarly effective coming so closely after the sombre reign of Puritanism, when their allusions were universally understood, and the whole manner of the poem-its broad humour and trenchant ridicule-fell in happily with the re-action

Declares himself an absolute free prince
In his dominions, only over sins ; &c.
A Jubilee is but a spiritual fair,
T'expose to sale all sorts of impious ware;
In which his Holiness buys nothing in
To stock his magazines, but deadly sin ; &c.
In the Church of Rome to go to shrift

Is but to put the soul on a clean shift. The Church of Rome teaches the people religion as men teach singing birds—shut them up, and keep them in the dark.

The Popes, heretofore, used to send Christian princes to plant religion with the sword among Pagans, while they with tricks and artifices planted the pagan at home.

that had taken place in the public mind. The popularity of the work threatened an inundation of laborious doggrel, and Butler might probably have been drifted into oblivion by a flood of imitators* if he had not vindicated his reputation by the speedy publication of the Second Part, which obtained the imprimatur of Sir Roger L'Estrange on the 5th Nov. 1663, and was published under the date of 1664, with a titlepage, on which it was carefully announced as having been written by the author of the first,' to distinguish it from counterfeits.

After the publication of this Second Part, Butler seems to have gone down into obscurity. Several years elapse before any indication of his existence can be discovered. His mode and means of life during the interval were, no doubt, unsettled and precarious. Chilled by the hollowness of patronage, even the applause of the public did not inspire him with a sufficient motive to literary exertion; and it may be concluded from his long silence that he laid aside his work in disgust. How he was occupied between 1663 and 1678, when he published the third part, does not appear. Aubrey, who is copied by Wood, says that he was secretary to the Duke of Buckingham, when that nobleman was Chancellor of Cambridge, and that he might have had better

* The imitations of Hudibras were very numerous. In 1674 there appeared Hogan Moganides, or, the Dutch Hudibras; in 1682, Tom D'Urfey published Butler's Ghost, or Hudibras the Fourth Part; Ned Ward produced two imitations—The Vulqus Britannicus, or, British Hudibras, a continuation of Hudibras carried down to his own time: and Hudibras Redivivus; there were also The Irish Hudibras, The Hudibrastic Brewer, and many others. A list of some of the principal pieces written in imitation of Butler, concluding with The Alma of Prior, will be found in The Retrospective Review, vol. iii., p. 307. It might be greatly enlarged, by the addition of a multitude of minor satires and pasquinades, Mr. Mitford mentions a work he had seen, which appears to have been an attempt to carry out the spirit of Hudibras in a different form. It professed to have been written in the time of the • late rebellion,' but was not published till 1682, and was entitled Mercurius Menippeus, the Loyal Salirist, or Hudibras in Prose.

+ The publication was advertised, in the following perplexing terms, in the Mercurius Publicus, of the 20th Nov., 1663; Newly published, the Second Part of Hudibras, by the author of the former, which (if possible) has outdone the first.'

employments, but that his expectations were too ambitious; and so at last he had no employment at all.* How far this account is likely to be true may be in some degree conjectured from the following anecdote related by Major Packe.

“Mr. Wycherley had always laid hold of any opportunity which offered of representing to the Duke of Buckingham how well Mr. Butler 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 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 the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly: the Duke joined them; but as the d-] would have it, the door of the room where they sat was open, and his Grace, who had seated himselt near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature too was a knight) trip up 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 those of desert, though no one was better qualified than he was, both in regard to his fortune 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.'t

This highly characteristic anecdote is much more probable than the vague report of Aubrey; and the character drawn by Butler of the Duke of Buckingham is conclusive of the fact that he could never have received any favours at his

**He was secretary,' says Aubrey, 'to the Duke of Bucks, when he was Chancellor of Cambridge. He might have had preferments at first; but he would not accept any except very good, so at last he had none at all, and died in want.'

Miscellanies in Prose and Verse. 1719.

« 이전계속 »