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reported that she was possessed of some fortune, which was lost through being invested on bad security. There is no valid evidence that she was a widow. The title “Mrs.' was then accorded to all ladies of any claim to social position, whether married or not, and its subsequent restriction to married ladies has caused many errors, and may have had something to do with the too ready acceptance of the theory that Butler married a widow. There is a curious contradiction amongst authorities as to her property. Some hold that Butler lived on it comfortably, others that he died in extreme want. The loss of the property by the failure of the securities may account for the discrepancy, and for some other matters which require explanation. If the income of the securities was at first regularly paid, Butler may have had means to live for a time comfortably, and may by this have been induced to give up his appointment as Lord Carbery's secretary and steward of Ludlow Castle. There seems no other explanation of his abandoning this post while he had
very little hope of a better; and the same supposition would explain also his subsequent state of poverty, after having held a comparatively lucrative position.
The great event of Butler's life now happens. In 1663, according to the date on the title-page, was published the first edition of the First Part of Hudibras. Rarely indeed has any book had such a reception. Every one bought it, every one quoted it, some tried to imitate it, many pirated'it. Pepys reports of it as 'the book most in fashion.' Poor Pepys it wholly victimized. He bought it for half
1 It actually appeared at the end of 1662.
a-crown, quite failed to see the point of it, and sold it to a friend for eighteenpence; only to be compelled, by the resistless force of fashion, to buy new copies when the Second Part came out, though he owns he can never see where the wit lies.' To a mind impervious to a joke the success of Hudibras must have seemed indeed mysterious. The king quoted the book constantly and carried it in his pocket. Courtiers vied with one another as to who should know it best; the portrait of the author was hung in the rooms of admitted leaders of fashion. There was no escape
in society from Hudibras, the duller spirits that could not comprehend dared not condemn.
Literary success, however, brought no material prosperity to Butler. He was praised and quoted and made the fashion, but he does not seem to have been rewarded. But a success so great, even though limited in its results, could not fail to tempt Butler to renew the pleasures of literary triumph. In 1663 he brought out the Second Part of Hudibras, and so diligently had the portion earliest published been imitated and pirated, that it was found needful to assure the public that this Second Part was “by the author of the first.” It was received with no less approbation than its predecessor, and brought no greater profit. For fifteen years after this date we have hardly any reliable tidings of the poet, and can only frame conjectures as to how he lived. In 1678 the Third Part of Hudibras appeared, and two years later, in 1680, old, poverty-stricken, and disappointed, Samuel Butler breathed his last in Rose Street, Covent Garden, and was buried in the neighbouring churchyard of St. Paul's. It was not until forty years after his
death that Butler's memory was honoured with a stone in Westminster Abbey, and its erection at last was due to the private generosity of a certain Mr. Barber, then Lord Mayor of London.
Though Hudibras was the greatest, it was not the only work of Butler. In 1759 were published Genuine Remains in Prose and Verse, containing Characters (including the scathing Character of the Duke of Buckingham), Poems, Thoughts, &c. The Posthumous Works, published in 1715-17, are generally considered to be spurious, with the exception of the Pindaric Ode on Claude Duval.' A discussion in full of what can be at best but probabilities would be out of place in such a work as this; it need only therefore be said, that a careful balancing of internal evidence has convinced the present editor that the spuriousness of these works has been too hastily pronounced upon, and that many of them are perfectly genuine, notably the Memoirs of the Years 1649–50.
In any attempt at a critical estimation of Butler's great work, the most obvious danger is that into which Dr. Johnson accused Dryden of having fallen, of really only expressing a wish that Butler had undertaken a different task. It is impossible to judge fairly of any literary work unless its purpose and aim are kept clearly before us. Butler's aim was ridicule, and to this aim all was subordinated. Learning he had in plenty, extensive, curious, and minute. In fact, Butler is generally accurate even when quaintest; cf. his account of Empedocles, I. ii. 1. But though much learning is displayed, it is not the display, but the ridicule of the display, that is ever Butler's purpose. Knowledge only serves to supply him with materials for his unfailing fancy to weave into the most uncouth forms. The burning questions of the day, that had been agitating all men's minds,—the real inner life of the England of Butler's time—are with consummate skill and ease inextricably blended with the ancient mythology or with subtle questions of metaphysics, in a juxtaposition hopelessly fatal to the dignity of both. Yet Butler could have written, could probably have even excelled in, polished verse had he been so inclined (cf. I. iii. 157 sq.). Measure, matter, and style of diction were all deliberately chosen for the same purpose and maintained with equal skill.
But while the form and style of the poem are thus original, the general idea was clearly a borrowed one.
Before Butler wrote, Thomas Skelton had already translated into English the Don Quixote of Cervantes. This romance furnished Butler with all the rudiments of his plan. The Knight, the squire Ralph, even the Knight's horse, are all closely related to the characters similarly placed in the romance of Don Quixote. But the extravagances of Don Quixote are those of a really noble mind, whilst Hudibras has no redeeming feature, and Ralpho as a character is beneath contempt. Of the satire Don Quixote Butler's Hudibras is a burlesque. Cowardly, hypocritical, covetous, gluttonous, unclean of life and speech and thought, Sir Hudibras would move our anger
but for the art of the humourist, which never allows our indignation to get the better of our mirth. It is much to be regretted that Butler's taste was not refined enough to cause him to recoil from gross
But even in this respect his unscrupulousness gave him a kind of advantage. Wishing to make his Hudibras as ridiculous as possible, he was ready to catch at any means which presented for that end, and therein at least he was successful, even though the means were occasionally foul.
It is naturally a question of much interest as to who or what was the precise object at which were aimed the shafts of such keen jesting. The answer to this question is very variously given. The student will find in the notes a summary of the leading theories as to the original of Hudibras; it need only be said here that there is much room for doubt as to whether Butler always consistently maintained the same purpose in this respect. As a general rule Sir Samuel Luke may be considered to have undoubtedly been the original. The coincidence of the exception of the real Sir Samuel from the SelfDenying Ordinance, in order that he might continue as governor of Newport, with the lines (I. ii. 983)
You are, great Sir,
seems too strong to be other than intentional. But it is nevertheless only a very few lines further on (I. i. 1046) that Butler's purpose unmistakably is to ridicule, under the name of Hudibras, the Parliamentary party as a whole. Quarter given "in your name may nevertheless be disregarded Squire argues to the Knight; and the Royalists, exultant in the Restoration, and with the events of the war fresh in their memories, would understand and relish the point of the satire.
In fact Butler's fame, though justly due in the first place to his own merits, owes not a little to a bountiful concurrence of those favouring circum