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Clarendon portrait, spoken of by Evelyn and Aubrey, painted by Lely, became successively the property of Mr. Longueville, and Mr. Hayter, of Salisbury; and has not been traced since.
In addition to Hudibras, Butler's productions are neither numerous nor important. In 1715 three small volumes were published, professing to contain his posthumous works ; but their contents were spurious, with the exception of three short pieces. These volumes had a considerable sale, and, in 1720, reached a sixth edition. Butler's authentic MSS. were bequeathed to Mr. Longueville; and from this collection, chiefly fragmentary, Mr. Thyer, of Manchester, made a selection, embracing all the pieces that were of sufficient length and substance for publication, which he printed in two volumes in 1759, under the title of Genuine Remains. The rest–consisting of notes and scraps, including Butler's Commonplace Book—passed into the hands of Dr. Farmer and Dr. Nash. Amongst these reliques, Dr. Nash found part of a tragedy called Nero, and a translation into French, already alluded to, of Coke's Commentary on Littleton.
Wood ascribes two pamphlets to Butler, which he says were falsely attributed to Prynne; Mola Asinaria, printed privately in 1659, and reprinted in 1715; and William Prynne's Answer to one John Audland, a Quaker, 1672. Of other works nothing is known with certainty. It was said that Butler had a share in The Rehearsal; that he assisted Lord Roos in answering a statement concerning his divorce published by the Marquis of Dorchester; and that he contributed, with Cowley and Sir John Berkenhead, to a miscellaneous volume called Wit and Loyalty revived. But it would be of little interest to follow him through these doubtful productions. His fame rests exclusively on Hudibras.
IN THREE PARTS.
[The name of Hudibras was, perhaps, borrowed from Spenser, by whom it appears to have been either invented, or first used.* The plan of the poem is drawn from Cervantes. Hudibras and Ralph are dramatic counterparts, however widely they diverge in some particulars, of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. The relations of knight and squire are identical in both, and both go forth in search of adventures, differing only in their objects. The situations in which they become involved complete the parallel, so far as the limited action of the poem proceeds. But their characters are widely contrasted. Hudibras is designed by the author as a mark for derision and contempt; while Don Quixote always awakens our sympathy, and sometimes commands our respect. Sancho, with his shrewd proverbs, his cunning, and his practical common-sense, supplies a running commentary on the visionary theories of Don Quixote; while Ralph is, in his way, as fanatical as his master, opposes him with the same weapons of argument and irony, and illustrates with equal effect another phase of the same sectarian extravagance.
The likeness pointed out by Voltaire between Hudibras and the Satyre Ménippée, a burlesque upon the proceedings of the League, consists in nothing more than the selection of a similar subject, and the treatment of it in its ridiculous aspects.* In both, the calamities of civil dissension, which in the reality cost so much blood and tears, are depicted with such irresistible humour as to make the most serious reader laugh; but, beyond this general resemblance there is no further similitude whatever. The form of the Satyre Ménippée, written in prose with a mixture of verse, is essentially different, and its merits are altogether of an inferior order. That Butler was acquainted with it, and derived some suggestions from it, is not improbable; but, with the exception of a well-known passage, the original of which, however, is doubtful, there is not a trace of imita. tion of that work to be detected throughout the poem. I
* He that made love unto the eldest dame Was hight Sir Hudibras, an hardy man.
F. Queen, ii. 1.
The main design of Hudibras is to hold up to ridicule the conduct, manners, and doctrines of the sectaries, exhibited in strong relief during the Civil Wars. Hudibras himself represents the Presbyterians, and Ralph the Independents; whose jealousies occupy as prominent a place as their combined action against the King's party and the Established Church. The superstitions, profligacies, and pedantry of the age are also included in this comprehensive satire; which presents upon the whole a complete picture of the social and theological phases of the Commonwealth, and the opening years of the Restoration.
**Les bourgeois de Paris, à la tête de la faction des seize, mélaient l'impertinence aux horreurs de la faction. Les intrigues des femmes, des légats, et des moines, avaient un coté comique, malgré les calamités qu'elles apportèrent. Les disputes théologiques et l'enthousiasme des puritains en Angleterre étaient très susceptibles de railleries ; et ce fond de ridicule bien développé pouvait devenir plaisant, en écartant les horreurs tragiques qui le couvraient.'-Lettres sur les Anglais.
† See note on Part iii., c. 3.
I The Satyre Ménippée bears the date of 1593, but was not published till the following year. The whole purpose of the work is to turn into ridicule the acts of the League, who were then masters of Paris. The authorship is generally ascribed to Leroy, canon of Rouen, and chaplain to the Cardinal de Bourbon; but Passerat, Pithou, Rapin, and others, are said to have had some share in its production.
The most conspicuous qualities of this great and unique work are its inexhaustible, original wit, and the extensive learning which is brought to bear upon its multifarious topics. . It is scarcely possible,' says Dr. Johnson, in his memorable criticism upon Hudibras, “to peruse a page without finding some association of images that was never found before. By the first paragraph the reader is amused, by the next he is delighted, and by a few more strained to astonishment.' Of the marvellous variety of knowledge displayed in its pages, he observes that Butler shows himself qualified to expand and illustrate his subject with all the accessories books can furnish, that he has not only travelled the beaten road, but the by-paths of literature, not only taken general surveys, but examined particulars with minute inspection. If the French,' he adds, 'boast the learning of Rabelais, we need not be afraid of confronting them with Butler.' . The interest, which never flags, arises solely from the wit and humour with which the scanty incidents are depicted, and the disputations and dialogues are sustained. Over these the reader lingers with increasing pleasure to the end, hardly conscious of the deficiency of dramatic movement. The action bears no proportion to the length of the poem, or to the burlesque importance with which the genius of the author has invested its most trivial features. The whole of the First Part, and the first canto of the Second Part, occupy only a single day; and the contests with Crowdero and Trulla, the victory over Sidrophel, and the adventure with the widow, comprise the entire story. Like Gondibert and the Franciade, which Butler banters so pleasantly in the argument to the first canto, Hudibras may be said to break off in the middle. The disappointment, however, arises only from finding the poem, long as it is, end so soon. We cannot reasonably complain of the want of a symmetrical termination to a work begun without a plan, and trusting wholly for its success to impulse and felicitous execution.
The measure, in the way in which it is here managed, may be said to have been first conceived by Butler. We have no
previous example of this kind of syllabification, by which a new elastic property is developed in language. The difficulty of making accentuation an agent of humour, may be estimated from the failure of all attempts at imitation and they are legion. The rhymes constitute one of the extraordinary features of the poem : and, notwithstanding the judgment pronounced upon them by Dryden and Addison, must be considered an integral element, not merely in the structure of the verse, but in the satire itself. Pope, when he was projecting a collection of the best examples of different kinds of writing, selected Butler and Swift as illustrations of the burlesque style. But the wilfulness of these incongruous rhymes, and their daring and triumphant excesses, ascend into a higher region than burlesque. Pope did not appreciate Butler, and appears to have missed the aim of Hudibras. *Butler,' he says, 'set out on too narrow a plan, and even that design is not kept up. He sinks into little particulars about the widow, &c. The enthusiastic knight, and the ignorant squire, over-religious in two different ways, and always quarrelling together, is the chief point of view.'* There is surely a deeper aim in Hudibras than the quarrels of the knight and his squire. Nor can that plan be said to be narrow, which is so unconfined as to be capable of expansion at will; and whatever may be thought of the theological tenets or political principles of Ralph, it can hardly be alleged with truth, that he is ignorant of the topics upon which he discourses with such zeal and subtlety. Johnson said that there was more thinking in Milton and Butler than in any of our poets ;'and it will not be denied that Ralph contributes his full share. - The First Part of Hudibras was published in 1663; and the Second Part in 1664. These were reprinted together, with alterations and notes by Butler, in 1674. The Third Part, without notes, was published in 1678. Notes by an anonymous writer were added to this Part after Butler's death.