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BUTLER, DRYDEN, AND THE PROSE WRITERS OF THE
$ 1. SAMUEL BUTLER : his life. § 2. Hudibras. $ 3. Butler's miscellaneous
writings. $ 4. Life of DRYDEN. $ 5. His dramas. $ 6. His shorter poems. $ 7. Absalom and Achitophel; The Medal; Mac Flecknoe. $ 8. Religio Laici and The Hind and the Panther. $9. Odes ; Translations of Juvenal and Virgil. § 10. Fables. § 11. Dryden's prose works. $ 12. BUNYAN: his life. § 13. His works : Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. § 14. The Pilgrim's Progress. $ 15. The Holy War. $ 16. CLARENDON. § 17. His History of the Great Rebellion. $ 18. IZAAK WALTON : his Lives and Complete Angler. $ 19. JOHN EVELYN. $ 20. SAMUEL PEPYS. $ 21. SIR ROGER L'ESTRANGE; GEORGE SAVILE, MARQUESS OF HALIFAX. $ 22. The change in prose style.
$ 1. If the greatest name in the literature of the Puritan and Republican party is that of Milton, the most illustrious literary representative of the Cavaliers is certainly SAMUEL BUTLER. Any comparison between the two is for obvious reasons impossible : the only point at which (1612-1680). they seem to approach one another is their almost Life. universal erudition. Butler's life was melancholy; he was incessantly persecuted by disappointment and distress; and he died, according to tradition, in such indigence that he was indebted for his grave to the pity of an admirer. His family was respectable but not wealthy : he himself was born in 1612, and was educated at Worcester free school. Great obscurity rests upon the details of his career. One account sends him to Oxford, another to Cambridge; while against these remains the doubt whether he was at either University, In all probability this last is the true conclusion, and lack of means certainly deprived him of any prolonged opportunity of acquiring in this way any portion of that immense learning whích his works prove him to have possessed. As a young man, he was clerk to a country justice of the peace, one Jeffereys; and there is little doubt that in this situation he made himself acquainted with the details of English legal procedure. He was afterwards preferred to the service of the Countess of Kent. Very probably he owed this favour to Selden, who had long resided as steward in this lady's town house, and is supposed,
on the insufficient authority of Aubrey, to have been secretly married to her. We know Selden, at all events, to have admired Butler's talents and to have employed him as an amanuensis. Butler now enjoyed one of the few gleams of sunshine that cheered his unhappy lot; he possessed, in this tranquil retirement, good opportunities for study, and had the advantage of conversing with accomplished men. It is nearly certain that, as tutor or clerk, he was for some time in the service of Sir Samuel Luke, a wealthy and powerful Bedford
shire magnate, who was a violent Republican and Origin and publicatim Presbyterian, and was one of those members of Parliament excluded after Pride's Purge.
In a bras."
house with such a master, Butler had the opportunity of collecting together those innumerable traits of bigotry and absurdity which he afterwards interwove into the fabric of his great satire ; and there is more than a likelihood that Luke was the origin of his inimitable caricature of Hudibras, in which he embodied all the odious and ridiculous peculiarities, political and religious, of the dominant party. His great work, the burlesque satire of Hudibras, was published in detached portions and at irregular intervals : the first part, containing the first three cantos, in 1663, the second part in the following year, and the third not until 1678. The first instalment, composed probably long before, was obliged to await the Restoration before it made its first appearance: it goes without saying that, had it been published earlier, the author would not have been secure from serious danger. Instantly the poem became the most popular book of the age, for it gratified at once the prevailing taste for the highest wit and ingenuity, and the vindictive sentiments of the Royalists towards their enemies and tyrants. Charles II, with all his vices, could appreciate wit and learning. He carried about Hudibras in his pocket, praising and quoting it perpetually, until it became the fashionable rage of the Court. If analogy is any criterion, Hudibras, in its tone and its popularity, was the English Pantagruel. Charles II, however, could praise without paying, and Butler received very little solid recompense for his work. He was appointed secretary to Lord Carbury, then Lord President of Wales, and, in his fulfilment of his duties, was for some time steward of Ludlow Castle, where, as everyone will remember, Milton's Comus had been presented, some thirty years before, by Lord Bridgewater's children. But it was not long before Butler lost his place. It is said that the Chancellor Clarendon and the Duke of Buckingham, as well as the King, had intended to do something for the illustrious supporter of their cause ; but, with the usual ingratitude and procrastination of that profligate
Court, they left Butler in his former poverty; and, Death of
according to the usual account, he died wretchedly
at a miserable lodging in Rose Street, Covent Garden (1680). He was buried, at the expense of his friend and admirer
William Longueville, in the burial ground of the neighbouring church of St. Paul.
$ 2. Hudibras, Butler's title to immortality, is a satire upon the vices and absurdities of the fanatic or Republican party, and particularly of the two dominant sects, the Presbyterians and Independents. It is to the
(1663). English Revolution and the Commonwealth what the Satire Ménippée is to the troubles and intrigues of the League. Its plan is perfectly original, although Don Quixote is in some measure responsible for the main idea. Butler's object was, however, entirely different from Cervantes', and his execution is so modified as to leave his work covered with a peculiar and novel glory of its own. We realise Cervantes' aim in that we laugh at his hero's extravagances without injuring our love and respect for his fundamental nobility and heroism. Butler, on the other hand, strove to render his personages as hateful and contemptible as his sense of humour allowed. Don Quixote is ludicrous simply on account of the discrepancy between his ideals and his actual circumstances : the paradox appeals to our humour and becomes laughable. Lancelot or Galahad would be ridiculous in his position. With Hudibras everything is changed. He is a monumental combination of ugliness, cowardice, pedantry, selfishness, and hypocrisy, and is on the verge of being an object, not of ridicule, but of hatred and detestation. These are not the passions of comedy. But his creator has shown consummate skill in stopping short just where his aim required it. Our sense of humour springs from contrast ; it is, at the outset, a sense of discord. Just as our sense of beauty depends on our appreciation of harmony, so, the more discord we see in our surroundings, the greater will be our sense of the ludicrous. From this fundamental principle all comic writing springs, and to this aim it is again directed-to excite in the reader the feelings of the writer. Consequently, all comic representation of whatever kind naturally divides itself into two categories, both attaining their end by this use of one principle, which they exhibit in two different ways. In one, a lofty subject is intentionally treated in a low and prosaic manner and with a keen attention to detail. This is the method of burlesque and parody. In the other, the low and prosaic subject is treated with a detailed pomposity which we call the mock-heroic manner. In either case the contrast or discord between the subject and its treatment, suddenly presented to the imagination, produces the same emotion and rouses the same sense.
The poem of Hudibras describes the adventures of a fanatic justice of the peace and his clerk, who go out on an expedition against the amusements of the common people.
Historical Popular enjoyment had been one of the chief bugbears circumof the Rump Parliament, and had been the hostile stances of
“Hudibras," object of several violent and oppressive acts. Not ENG. LIT.
only were the theatres suppressed and all cheerful amusements prohibited during that gloomy time, but the rougher pastimes of the lower classes were suppressed by authority-and not without justice, if we take into account the popularity of bear-baiting. The celebrated story of Colonel Pride, who caused the unfortunate bears to be shot by a file of soldiers, furnished the enemies of the Puritan government with inexhaustible materials for epigram and caricature. These severe measures were, so far as we can judge, the result, not so much of aversion to the brutal cruelty of the sport, as of a systematic hostility to everything that bore a semblance of gaiety and amusement. Sir Hudibras, for whom, as we have seen, Butler found a probable model in Sir Samuel Luke, is, in his person and equipment, his moral and intellectual features, an unique figure, comparable for completeness, oddity of imagery, and richness of grotesque allusion, to almost any character drawn by Lucian, Rabelais, Voltaire, or Swift. The personality of Hudibras had, to some extent, been foreshadowed by the great hand of Ben Jonson in his kindly but ludicrous picture of Justice Overdo, who goes out to observe for himself the “enormities” of Bartholomew Fair, and meets with sad misfortunes in his expedition. This was, however, in 1614: the Royalists of 1663 would look for a more scathing satire. Hudibras is the type of the Presbyterian party. His clerk, Ralpho, the Sancho Panza of this new Quixote, is the representative of the sour, wrong-headed, but more enthusiastic Independents. Their adventures are told in a versification
adopted from the old Anglo-Norman Trouvères and the legends of the Round Table. Hudibras' name is borrowed from the same early source. Thus,
comparing the baseness of the incidents, the minuteness of detail, and the long dialogues between the magistrate and his servant, with the stately actions which originally adorned this fluent metre, our impression of the parody is immediately raised to an infinitely greater delight. Sir Hudibras and Ralphó,
in the prosecution of their crusade, fall in with a Its plot.
procession of ragamuffins conducting a bear to the baiting-ground. They refuse to disperse at the knight's summons, and a furious mock-heroic battle ensues. Hudibras, after various fortunes, comes off best, and succeeds in imprisoning the principal culprits in the parish stocks. Their comrades return to the charge, free them, and, in their stead, place the knight and squire in durance. They, in their turn, are liberated by a rich widow to whom Hudibras is paying his court, purely from interested motives. The hero afterwards visits the lady, and receives a sound beating from her servants disguised as devils, after which he consults a lawyer and an astrologer as to his means of obtaining revenge and satisfaction, However, the merit and interest of this extraordinary poem by no means consist in its plot. Its incidents are, indeed, described with extraordinary animation and a grotesque richness of in
Its mockheroic character
vention, but there is a complete want of unity and connection of interest, nor can we trace any general combination of events to an intrigue or a final catastrophe. Indeed, we could hardly expect to do so in a work whose scope is so different from that of mere fiction or even of comedy.
There was a long interval between the publication of the first and of the last canto ; and, during that time, the politics of the day had undergone a great change. Butler, whose main object was to satirise the follies and wickedness to the of the reigning party, was obliged to direct his shafts original against totally different vices and persons : thus, in
story. the last canto, he describes the general breaking-up of the Rump Parliament and the events immediately preceding the Restoration. His poem, like the adventure of the bear and the fiddle which it contains, “begins, and breaks off in the middle.” But no reader ever regretted the irregular and undecided march of the story. We do not look at Hudibras with that curiosity which finds its delight in a well-developed intrigue. An astonishing fertility of invention displayed in the description both of things and persons, Butler's an analysis of character which is obvious in the
humour. long and frequent dialogues (principally between Hudibras and Ralpho), a vivid and animated use of colour in every incident, and, above all, an immeasurable flood of witty and unexpected illustration, pursuing its unhindered course through the whole poem-these are the qualities which have made Butler one of the great classics of the English language. The characteristic of his wit is its power of tracing unexpected analogies, whether of difference or resemblance, its faculty of bringing together ideas apparently incongruous, which, once connected, convey the secret of their new relation to the pleased and surprised reader, and give him, for the moment, an exhilarating sense of personal discovery. Perhaps no writer possessed this power in an equal degree : his learning was portentous in its extent and variety, and he appears to have accumulated his vast stores, not only in the beaten tracks, but in the most obscure corners and out-of-the-way regions of books and sciences. His extent of thought, as well as of reading, is astonishing : if his unexpected images are due to his knowledge of books, they are due also to his fertile and ever active imagination. The effect of the whole is increased by the easy, conversational, almost vulgar tone of his style his language, in which colloquial and familiar slang is mixed up with the pedantic terms of art and learning. In his metre, too, he is singularly happy. The short octosyllabic verse carries us on with unabated rapidity, and the constant recurrence of odd and fantastic rhymes, whose artful ingenuity is concealed beneath a cloak of the most unstudied ease, produces a series of pleasant surprises that awaken and satisfy the attention.