Графични страници
PDF файл

portunities of gaining a right insight into the true principles of the Presbyterian party, and he probably saw so much of the selfishness, intolerance, and wickedness of that sect, as to cause him to hold them in abhorrence ever afterwards. The design of his poem was to expose the hypocrisy and wickedness of those who began and carried on the rebellion, under a pretence of promoting religion and godliness, at the same time that they acted against all the precepts of religion and morality; and to show how different the real motives of those who acted the principal parts in the civil war were from their osten

sible motives. | How well he executed this design, the applause of his contemporaries, and the admiration of posterity, amply prove. Hudibras was no sooner published, than it was in the hands of every one at court. Charles II. who was no mean judge of wit and humour was delighted with it, and frequently quoted it in conversation; but, with his usual inattention to his friends, neglected to reward the author. The King's excessive fondness for the poem, and his surprising disregard and neglect of the author, is fully and movingly related by Butler himself, in his poem entitled “ Hudibras at Court,” where he speaks of himself in the following lines:

“Now you must know, Sir Hudibras
With such perfections gifted was,
And so peculiar in his manner,
That all that saw him did bim honor;
Among the rest this prince was one
Admir'd his conversation;
This prince, whose ready wit and parts
Conquer'd both men and women's hearts,
Was so o'ercome with Knight and Ralph,
That he could never claw it off;

He never eat, nor drank, nor slept
But Hudibras still near him kept;
Never would go to church or so,
But Hudibras must with him go;
Nor yet to visit concubine,
Or at a city feast to dine,
But Hudibras must still be there,
Or all the fat was in the fire.
Now, after all, was it not hard
That he should meet with no reward,
That fitted out this Knight and Squire
This monarch did so much admire?
That he should never reimburse
The man for th' equipage or horse,
Is sure a strange, ungrateful thing,
In any body but a King.
But this good King it seems was told,
By some that were with him too bold,
If c'er you hope to gain your ends,
Caress your foes, and trust your friends.-
Such were the doctrines that were taught,
Till this unthinking King was brought
To leave his friends to starve and die,

A poor reward for loyalty.” We are, indeed, informed, that Butler was once in a fair way of obtaining a royal gratuity, as the following account will show. “ Mr. Wycherly had always laid hold of any opportunity which offered to represent to his Grace the Duke of Ruckingham, 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. Wycherly, in hopes to keep

bim steady to his word, obtained of his Grace to name a day when he might introduce the modest and unfortunate poet to his new patron: at last an appointment was made, and the place of meeting was appointed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly, and the Duke joined them, but by an unlucky incident this interview was broke off'; and it will always be remembered, to the reproach of the age, that this great and inimitable poet was suffered to live and die in want and obscurity.”

It would, however, be unfair not to mention, that Butler at one time received from King Charles II. a gratuity of three hundred pounds; and this honorable circumstance attended the grant, that it passed through all the offices without a fee. Butler, on this occasion, showed himself a man of honesty and integrity, as well as of genius, for call, ing to mind that he owed to different persons more than the amount of the royal donation, he generously directed the whole sum to be paid towards the satisfaction of his creditors.

If Butler was disappointed of royal, he does not appear to have been altogether destitute of private patronage. Soon after the restoration, he became secretary to Richard, Earl of Carbury, Lord President of the Principality of Wales, who made bim steward of Ludlow castle, when the court there was revived. About this time he married one Mrs. Herbert, a gentlewoman of a very good family, and a competent fortune, but the greater part of it unfortunately lost, by being put out on ill securities, so that it was little advantage to him.

Wood, the Oxford antiquary, reports Butler to have been secretary to George, Duke of Buckingham, when he was chancellor to the university of Cambridge; but this is not confirmed by any other authority, and the

probability is, that he was only an occasional partaker of the Duke's bounty. His most generous friend was Charles, Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, who, being an excellent poet himself, knew how to set a just value on the genius and talents of others, and often privately relieved those necessities of our poet, which his modesty would have led him to conceal.

That he had other generous fr'ends, to whom the integrity of his life, the acuteness of his wit, and the easiness of his conversation, endeared him, may readily be conceived; yet no faet comes to us more strongly established than that Butler, if he did not absolutely perish of want, terminated his day in the utmost indigence and misery, and was indebted for a decent interment to the charity of a friend.* This melancholy circumstance in the history of this great man, comes to us so well authenticated by contemporaries who must have known the truth of what they related, that not a

* Butler died in the year 1680 and was buried at the charge of his friend, Mr. Longueville, of the Temple, in the yard belonging to the church of St. Paul, Covent Garden, at the west end of the said yard, on the north side, under the wall which parts the yard from the common highway. The Editors of the “General Historical Dictionary," say, “ That Mr. Longueville would fain have buried Butler in Westminster Abbey; and spoke in that view to some of those wealthy persons who, had admired him so much in his life-time, offering to pay his part; but none of them would contribute; upon which Mr. Longueville buried him with the greatest privacy (but at the same time very decently) in Covent Garden Church-yard, at his own expense, himself and seven or eight persons more following the corpse to the grave.” Dr. Grey adds, “That the burial service was read over him by the learned and pious Dr. Patrick, afterwards Lord Bishop of Ely, then minister of the parish.”

doubt can be entertained on the subject. Oldham, in his “Satire against Poetry," introduces the ghost of Spenser dissuading him from it, upon experience and example, that poverty and contempt were its inseparable attendants. After Spenser has gone over his own lamentable case, and mentioned Homer and Cowley in the same view, he thus movingly bewails the great and unhappy Butler:

“On Butler who can think without just rage,

The glory and the scandal of the age?
Fair stood his hopes, when first he came to town,
Met every where with welcomes of renown;
Courted and lov'd by all, with wonder read,
And promises of princely favor fed:
But what reward for all had be at last?
After a life in dull expectance past,
The wretch, at summing up his mispent 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;
Reduc'd to want, be in due time fell sick,
Was fain to die, and be interr’d on tick:
And well might bless the fever, that was sent

To rid him hence, and his worse fate prevent.” Otway, who, if tradition speaks truly of him, perished as miserably as our poet himself, has the following lines on the same subject, in his prologue to Constantine the Great :

“All you who have male issue, born
Under the starving sign of Capricorn,
Prevent the malace of their stars in time,
And warn them early from the sin of rhyme:
Tell them how Spenser starv’d, how Cowley mourn'd,
How Butler's faith and service were return'd;
And if such warning they refuse to take,
This last experiment, О parents! make:

« ПредишнаНапред »