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mestic, the sentiments unborrowed and unex-1 The hero, thus compounded of swaggerer and pected, and the strain of diction original and pedant, of knight and justice, is led forth to acpeculiar. We must not, however, suffer the tion, with his squire Ralpho, an independent pride, which we assume as the countrymen of enthusiast. Butler, to make any encroachment upon justice, Of the contexture of events planned by the nor appropriate those honours which others have Author, which is called the action of the poem, a right to share. The poem of “ Hudibras” is since it is left imperfect, no judgment can be not wholly English; the original idea is to be made. It is probable that the hero was to be found in the history of “ Don Quixote;" a book led through many luckless adventures, which to which a mind of the greatest powers may be would give occasion, like his attack upon the indebted without disgrace.
“ bear and fiddle,” to expose the ridiculous ri. Cervantes shows a man, who having, by the gour of the sectaries; like his encounter with incessant perusal of incredible tales, subjected Sidrophel and Whachum, to make superstition his understanding to his imagination, and fami- and credulity contemptible; or, like his recourse liarised his mind by pertinacious meditation to to the low retailer of the law, discover the frautrains of incredible events, and scenes of impos- dulent practices of different professions. sible existence; goes out in the pride of knight What series of events he would have formed, hood to redress wrongs, and defend virgins, to or in what manner he would have rewarded or rescue captive princesses, and tumble usurpers punished his hero, it is now vain to conjecture. from their thrones ; attended by a squire, whose His work must have had, as it seems, the defect cunning, too low for the suspicion of a generous which Dryden imputes to Spenser; the action mind, enables him often to cheat his master. could not have been one; there could only have
The hero of Butler is a presbyterian justice, been a succession of incidents, each of which who, in the confidence of legal authority and might have happened without the rest, and the
rage of zealous ignorance, ranges the coun which could not all co-operate to any single contry to repress superstition and correct abuses, clusion. accompanied by an independent clerk, disputa The discontinuity of the action might however tious and obstinate, with whom he often debates, have been easily forgiven, if there had been acbut never conquers him.
tion enough: but I believe every reader regrets Cervantes had so much kindness for Don the paucity of events, and complains that in the Quixote, that, however he embarrasses him with poem of “ Hudibras,” as in the history of Thuabsurd distresses, he gives him so much sense cydides, there is more said than done. The and virtue as may preserve our esteem; wher. scenes are too seldom changed, and the attention ever he is, or whatever he does, he is made by is tired with long conversation. matchless dexterity commonly ridiculous, but It is, indeed, much more easy to form dianever contemptible.
logues than to contrive adventures. Every poBut for poor Hudibras, his poet had no ten- sition makes way for an argument, and every derness; he chooses not that any pity should be objection dictates an answer. When two disshown or respect paid him; he gives him up at putants are engaged upon a complicated and exonce to laughter and contempt, without any | tensive question, the difficulty is not to continue, quality that can dignify or protect him. but to end, the controversy. But whether it be
In forming the character of Hudibras, and that we comprehend but few of the possibilities describing his person and habiliments, the au- of life, or that life itself affords little variety, thor seems to labour with a tumultuous confu- every man who has tried knows how much lasion of dissimilar ideas. He had read the bis-bour it will cost to form such a combination of tory of the mock knights-errant; he knew the circumstances as shall have at once the grace of notions and manners of a presbyterian magis- novelty and credibility, and delight fancy withtrate, and tried to unite the absurdities of both, out violence to reason. however distant, in one personage.
Thus he Perhaps the dialogue of this poem is not pergives him that pedantic ostentation of know- fect. Some power of engaging the attention ledge which has no relation to chivalry, and might have been added to it by quicker reciproloads him with martial incumbrances that can cation, by seasonable interruptions, by sudden add nothing to his civil dignity. He sends him questions, and by a nearer approach to dramatic out a colonelling, and yet never brings him with sprightliness; without which fictitious speeches in sight of war.
will always tire, however sparkling with senIf Hudibras be considered as the representa- tences, and however variegated with allusions.. tive of the presbyterians, it is not easy to say The great source of pleasure is variety. Uniwhy his weapons should be represented as ridi-formity must tire at last, though it be uniformis culous or useless; for, whatever judgment might ty of excellence. We love to expect; and, when he passed upon their knowledge or their argu- expectation is disappointed or gratified, we want ments, experience had sufficiently shown that to be again expecting. For this impatience of their swords were not to be despised.
the present, whoever would please must make
provision. The skilful writer irritat, mulcet, | not such events and precepts as are gathered by makes a due distribution of the still and ani- reading, but such remarks, similitudes, allusions, mated parts. It is for want of this artful inter- assemblages, or inferences, as occasion prompted, texture, and those necessary changes, that the or meditation produced, those thoughts that whole of a book may be tedious, though all the were generated in his own mind, and might be parts are praised.
usefully applied to some future purpose. Such If inexhaustible wit could give perpetual is the labour of those who write for immortality. pleasure, no eye would ever leave half-read the But human works are not easily found withwork of Butler; for what poet has ever brought out a perishable part. Of the ancient poets so many remote images so happily together? It every reader feels the mythology tedious and is scarcely possible to peruse a page without oppressive. Of “ Hudibras,” the manners, finding some association of images that was being founded on opinions, are temporary and never found before. By the first paragraph the local, and therefore become every day less intelreader is amused, by the next he is delighted, ligible, and less striking. What Cicero says of and by a few more strained to astonishment; but philosophy is true likewise of wit and humour, astonishment is a toilsome pleasure; he is soon that “ time effaces the fictions of opinions, and weary of wondering, and longs to be diverted. confirms the determinations of Nature.” Such
manners as depend upon standing relations and Omnia vult belle Matho dicere, dic aliquando
general passions are co-extended with the race Et bene, dic neutrum, dic aliquando male.
of man; but those modifications of life and pe Imagination is useless without knowledge: . culiarities of practice, which are the progeny of nature gives in vain the power of combination, error and perverseness, or at best of some acciunless study and observation supply materials to dental influence or transient persuasion, must be combined. Butler's treasures of knowledge perish with their parents. appear proportioned to his expense: whatever
Much therefore of that humour which transtopic employs his mind, he shows himself quali- ported the last* century with merriment is lost fied to expand and illustrate it with all the ac
to us, who do not know the sour solemnity, the cessaries that books' can furnish: he is found sullen superstition, the gloomy 'moroseness, and not only to have travelled the beaten road, but the stubborn scruples of the ancient puritans; or, the bye-paths of literature ; not only to have if we knew them, derive our information only taken general surveys, but to have examined from books, or from tradition, have never had particulars with minute inspection.
them before our eyes, and cannot but by recolIf the French boast the learning of Rabelais, lection and study understand the lines in which we need not be afraid of confronting them with they are satirized. Our grandfathers knew the Butler.
picture from the life; we judge of the life by But the most valuable parts of his perform- contemplating the picture. ance are those which retired study and native
It is scarcely possible, in the regularity and wit cannot supply. He that merely makes a composure of the present time, to image the book from books may be useful, but can scarcely tumult of absurdity, and clamour of contradicbe great. Butler had not suffered life to glide tion, which perplexed doctrine, disordered pracbeside him unseen or unobserved.
He had tice, and disturbed both public and private quiet, watched with great diligence the operations of in that age when subordination was broken, and human nature, and traced the effects of opinion, awe was hissed away; when any unsettled inhumour, interest, and passion. From such re- novator, who could hatch a half-formed notion, marks proceeded that great number of senten- produced it to the public; when every man tious distichs which have passed into conversa- might become a preacher, and almost every tion, and are added as proverbial axioms to the preacher could collect a congregation. general stock of practical knowledge.
The wisdom of the nation is very reasonably When any work has been viewed and admired, supposed to reside in the parliament. What. the first question of intelligent curiosity is, how can be concluded of the lower classes of the peowas it performed ? “ Hudibras” was not a ple, when, in one of the parliaments summoned hasty effusion; it was not produced by a sud-by Cromwell, it was seriously proposed, that all den tumult of imagination, or a short paroxysm the records in the tower should be burnt, that of violent labour. To accumulate such a mass all memory of things past should be effaced, and of sentiments at the call of accidental desire, or that the whole system of life should commence of sudden necessity, is beyond the reach and anew ? power of the most active and comprehensive
We have never been witnesses of animosities mind. I am informed by Mr. Thyer, of Man- excited by the use of mince-pies and plum-porchester, that excellent editor of this author's re- ridge; nor seen with what abhorrence those, lics, that he could show something like “ Hudibras” in prose.
He has in his possession the common-place book, in which Butler reposited
* The seventeenth.
who could eat them at all other times of the and the numbers purposely neglected, except in year, would shrink from them in December. a few places where the thoughts by their native An old puritan, who was alive in my childhood, excellence secure themselves from violation, being at one of the feasts of the church invited being such as mean language cannot express. by a neighbour to partake his cheer, told him, The mode of versification has been blamed by that if he would treat him at an alehouse with Dryden, who regrets that the heroic measure beer brewed for all times and seasons, he should was not rather chosen. To the critical ser tence accept his kindness, but would have none of his of Dryden the highest reverence would be due, superstitious meats or drinks.
were not his decisions often precipitate, and his One of the puritanical tenets was the illegal- opinions immature. When he wished to change ity of all games of chance; and he that reads the measure, he probably would have been wilGataker upon Lots may see how much learning ling to change more. If he intended that, when and reason one of the first scholars of his age the numbers were heroic, the diction should thought necessary, to prove that it was no crime still remain vulgar, he planned a very heterogeto throw a die, or play at cards, or to hide a neous and unnatural composition. If he preshilling for the reckoning.
ferred a general stateliness both of sound and Astrology, however, against which so much words, he can be only understood to wish Butof the satire is directed, was not more the folly ler had undertaken a different work. of the puritans than of others. It had in that The measure is quick, sprightly, and collotime a very extensive dominion Its predictions quial, suitable to the vulgarity of the words and raised hopes and fears in minds which ought to the levity of the sentiments. But such numbers have rejected it with contempt. In hazardous and such diction can gain regard only when they undertakings care was taken to begin under the are used by a writer whose vigour of fancy and influence of a propitious planet; and, when the copiousness of knowledge entitle him to conKing was prisoner in Carisbrook Castle, an tempt of ornaments, and who, in confidence of astrologer was consulted what hour would be the novelty and justness of his conceptions, can found most favourable to an escape.
afford to throw metaphors and epithets away. What effect this poem had upon the public, To another that conveys common thoughts in whether it shamed imposture, or reclaimed cre- careless versification, it will only be said, Paudulity, is not easily determined. Cheats can per videri Cinna vult, et est pauper. The meanseldom stand long against laughter. It is cer- ing and diction will be worthy of each other, tain that the credit of planetary intelligence and criticism may justly doom them to perish wore fast away; though some men of knowledge, together. and Dryden among them, continued to believe Nor even though another Butler should arise, that conjunctions and oppositions had a great would another “ Hudibras” obtain the same part in the distribution of good or evil, and in regard. Burlesque consists in a disproportion the government of sublunary things.
between the style and the sentiments, or bePoetical action ought to be probable upon cer tween the adventitious sentiments and the funtain suppositions; and such probability as bur- damental subject. It, therefore, like all bodies lesque requires is here violated only by one in- compounded of heterogeneous parts, contains in cident. Nothing can show more plainly the it a principle of corruption. All disproportion necessity of doing something, and the difficulty is unnatural: and from what is unnatural we of finding something to do, than that Butler can derive only the pleasure which novelty prowas reduced to transfer to his hero the flagella- duces. We admire it awhile as a strange thing; tion of Sancho, not the most agreeable fiction of but when it is no longer strange, we perceive its Cervantes; very suitable indeed to the manners deformity. It is a kind of artifice, which by of that age and nation, which ascribed wonder- frequent repetition detects itself: and the ful efficacy to voluntary penances; but so re- reader, learning in time what he is to expect, mote from the practice and opinions of the lays down his book, as the spectator turns Hudibrastic time, that judgment and imagina- away from a second exhibition of those tricks, tion are alike offended.
of which the only use is to show that they can The diction of this poem is grossly familiar, be played.
John Wilmot, afterwards Earl of Rochester,
so much in favour with King the son of Henry Earl of Roche better Charles, that he was made one of the gentleknown by the title of Lord Wilmot, so often men of the bed-chamber, and comptroller of mentioned in Clarendon's History, was born Woodstock Park. April 10, 1647, at Ditchley, in Oxfordshire. Having an active and inquisitive mind, he After a grammatical education at the school of never, except in his paroxysms of intemperance, Burford, he entered a nobleman into Wadham was wholly negligent of study; he read what is College, in 1659, only twelve years old ; and in considered as polite learning so much, that he 1661, at fourteen, was, with some other persons is mentioned by Wood as the greatest scbolar of high rank, made master of arts by Lord Cla- of all the nobility. Sometimes he retired into rendon in person.
the country, and amused himself with writing He travelled afterwards into France and libels, in which he did not pretend to confine Italy; and at his return devoted himself to the himself to truth. court. In 1665 he went to sea with Sandwich, His favourite author in French was Boileau, and distinguished himself at Bergen by uncom- and in English, Cowley. mon intrepidity; and the next summer served Thus in a course of drunken gayety, and gross again on board Sir Edward Spragge, who, in sensuality, with intervals of study perhaps yet the heat of the engagement, having a message of more criminal, with an avowed contempt of all reproof to send to one of his captains, could find decency and order, a total disregard of every no man ready to carry it but Wilmot, who, in moral, and a resolute denial of every religious an open boat, went and returned amidst the obligation, he lived worthless and useless, and storm of shot.
blazed out his youth and his health in lavish But his reputation for bravery was not last- voluptuousness; till, at the age of one-anding; he was reproached with slinking away in thirty, he had exhausted the fund of life, and street quarrels, and leaving his companions to reduced himself to a state of weakness and shift as they could without him; and Sheffield decay. Duke of Buckingham, has left a story of his re At this time he was led to an acquaintance fusal to fight him.
with Dr. Burnet, to whom he laid open with He had very early an inclination to intemper- great freedom the tenor of his opinions, and the ance, which he totally subdued in his travels; course of his life, and from whom he received but, when he became a courtier, he unhappily such conviction of the reasonableness of moral addicted himself to dissolute and vicious com-duty, and the truth of Christianity, as produced pany, by which his principles were corrupted, a total change both of his manners and opinions. and his manners depraved. He lost all sense of The account of those salutary conferences is religious restraint, and, finding it not convenient given by Burnet in a book, entitled, “ Some to admit the authority of laws, which he was Passages of the Life and Death of John Earl resolved not to obey, sheltered his wickedness of Rochester,” which the critic ought to read behind infidelity.
for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguAs he excelled in that noisy and licentious mients, and the saint for its piety. It were an merriment which wine excites, his companions injury to the reader to offer him an abridgment. eagerly encouraged him in excess, and he will · He died July 26, 1680, before he had comingly indulged it; till, as he confessed to Dr. pleted his thirty-fourth year; and was so worn Burnet, he was for five years together con- away by a long illness, that life went out withtinually drunk, or so much inflamed by fre-out a struggle. quent cbriety, as in no interval to be master of Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour himself.
of his colloquial wit, and remarkable for many In this state he played many frolics, which it wild pranks and sallies of extravagance. The is not for his honour that we should remember, glare of his general character diffused itself upand which are not now distinctly known. He on his writings; the compositions of a man often pursued low amours in mean disguises, whose name was heard so often were certain of and always acted with great exactness and dex- attention, and from many readers certain of terity the characters which he assumed. applause. This blaze of reputation is not yet
He once erected a stage on Tower-hill, and quite extinguished; and his poetry still retains harangued the populace as a mountebank; and, some splendour beyond that which genius has having made physic part of his study, is said to bestowed. have practised it successfully.
Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe
that much was imputed to him which he did faire ; and the first was preferred because it not write. I know not by whom the original gave rien a sense in some sort positive. Nothing collection was made, or by what authority its can be a subject only in its positive sense, and genuineness was ascertained. The first edition such a sense is given it in the first line :was published in the year of his death, with an air of concealment, professing in the title-page
Nothing, thou elder brother ev’n to shade. to be printed at Antwerp. Of some of the pieces, however, there is no
In this line, I know not whether he does not doubt. The imitation of Horace's satire, the allude to a curious book, “: De Umbra,” by verses to Lord Mulgrave, satire against Man, Wowerus, which having told the qualities of the verses upon “ Nothing." and perhaps some shade, concludes with a poem in which are these
lines : others, are I believe genuine, and perhaps most of those which the collection exhibits. * As he cannot be supposed to have found lei Jam primum terram validis circumspice claustris
Suspensam titim, decus adnjirabile mundi sure for any course of continued study, his
Terrasque trac'usque maris, camposque liquentes pieces are commonly short, such as one fit of re
Æris et vasti laqueata palatia coeli — solution would produce.
Omnibus UMBRA prior. . His songs have no particular character; they tell, like other songs, in smooth and easy lan The positive sense is generally preserved with guage, of scorn and kindness, dismission and great skill through the whole poem ; though, desertion, absence and inconstancy, with the sometimes, in a subordinate sense, the negative common-places of artificial courtship. They nothing is injudiciously mingled. Passerat conare commonly smooth and easy; but have little founds the two senses. nature, and little sentiment.
Another of his most vigorous pieces -is his His imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not lampoon on Sir Car Scrope, who, in a poem inelegant, or unhappy. In the reign of Charles called “ The Praise of satire,” had some lines the Second began that adaption, which has like these : since been very frequent, of ancient poetry to present times; and perhaps few will be found
He who can push into a midnight fray where the parallelism is better preserved than His brave companion, and then run away, in this. The versification is indeed sometimes Leaving him to be murder'd in the street, careless, but it is sometimes vigorous and weighty.
Then put it off with some buffoon conceit: The strongest effort of his Muse is his poem
Him, thus dishonour'd, for a wit you owo,
And court him as top fiddler of the town. upon “ Nothing." He is not the first who has chosen this barren topic for the boast of his
This was meant of Rochester, whose buffoon fertility. There is a poem called “ Nihil,” in Latin, by Passerat, a poet and critic of the that every man world be a coward if he durst ; and
conceit was, I suppose, a saying often mentioned, sixteenth century in France; who, in his own
drew from him those furious verses; to which epitaph, expresses his zeal for good poetry thus :
Scrope made in reply an epigram, ending with
these lines : -Molliter ossa quiescent, : Sipt modo carminibus non onerata malis.
Thou car et hurt no man's fame with thy ill word;
Thy pen is full as harmless as thy s vord. His works are not common, and therefore I shall subjoin his verses.
Of the satire against “Man,” Rochester can In examining this performance, “Nothing" only claim what remains when all Boileau's must be considered as having not only a nega- part is taken away. tive but a kind of positive signification; as I In all his works there is sprightliness and need not fear thieves, I have nothing, and no- vigour, and every where may be found tokens thing is a very powerful protector. In the first of a mind which study might have carried to part of the sentence it is taken negatively, in excellence. What more can be expected from a the second it is taken positively, as an agent. life spent in ostentatious contempt of regularity, In one of Bojleau's lines it was a question, and ended before the abilities of many other whether he should use à rien faire, or à ne rien men began to be displayed at
• Dr. Johnson has made no mention of “ Valen. • I quote from memory.-Dr. J. tinian,”. (altered from Beaumont and Fletcher) which + The late George Stephens, Esq. made the selecwas published after his death by a friend who de tion of Rochester's Poems which appears in Dr. scribes him in the preface not only as being one of Johnson's edition ; but Mr. Malone observes, tha the greatest geniuses, but one of the most virtuous the same task had been performed in the early part men that ever existed.-J. B.
of the last century by Jacob Tonson.-C.