Изображения страниц

ing themselves to the cluster. Of these
the wretched Rochester was one.
He was
but twenty-two years of age when Dryden
became laureate, but had already filled the
town with the fame of his wit and his de-
baucheries. The unhappy Otway in time
became another, and rivalled Dryden in
the tragic drama. And besides Rochester
and Otway were many minor men, now all
but forgotten. It was not till towards the
close of Charles's reign that Dryden, press-
ed as it were by the competition of these
junior wits, carried his great powers be-
yond the drama altogether, and betak-
ing himself in his comparatively old age,
to other forms of literature, acquired in
them the better part of what now consti-
tutes his true fame. Into this later part
of his life, however, seeing that Butler was
dead before it began, it is not necessary
that we should trace him.

in turn became a patriarch and saw new veneration. Be this as it may, it is cerauthors springing up around him, and add-tain that mathematical and physical research,-the application of Bacon's hitherto dormant method to the facts and appearances of nature,- came in with the reign of the witty monarch. It was in 1660 that Dr. Ward, Mr. Boyle, my Lord Brouncker, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Wallis, Sir William Petty, and others, founded the Royal Society, and began those readings of mathematical papers, and experiments with tubs of water, phials of quicksilver, lenses, telescopes, &c., which procured for them the name of virtuosi, and at which the town laughed. In due time other men of distinction added themselves to this illustrious little band,—Wren, Barrow, Evelyn, Hooke, as really men of science; Waller, Denham, Cowley, Dryden himself, and Spratt, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, as literary men and amateurs of science; and the Duke of Buckingham, the Marquis of Dorchester, and a few other Lords, by way of the necessary sprinkling of the aristocracy. In 1663, which was the year when Dryden joined, there were already one hundred and fifteen members; and the weekly proceedings of the Society were a regular part of the gossip of the town. Isaac Newton was then a youth of twenty, concluding his studies at Cambridge; but it was not long before the Society had communications from him, both mathematical and optical, including no less substantial a one than a reflecting telescope made by his own hands, which they examined and showed to the King in 1668; and, in 1671, by which time he had succeeded Barrow in the mathematical chair at Cambridge, he was elected a member.

So far as the characteristic literature, therefore, of the age of the Restoration was concerned, it was a genuine reflex of the prevalent social morality. It was truly a literature of the Occiput a literature in the production of which, to talk phrenologically, the back of the head was more exercised than any of the coronal or anterior organs, except perhaps wit. There was no lack of energy in it, but it was mainly occipital energy, and there was a manifest deficiency of those higher qualities which had balanced the occipital, even when there was enough and to spare of that, in the older literature of England. Curiously enough, however, contemporaneous with this inordinate and reactionary development of what may be called the literature of the occiput in England, were the beginnings of an intellectual movement of another kind far more beautiful, and yet, as it would appear, mysteriously cognate. We do not know what organs the phrenologists would specify as being chiefly concerned in the prosecution of physical science, but supposing them to be number, individuality, eventuality, and causality, then we must conclude that, in addition to wit, these organs suffered no depression in that general contraction backwards which the cranium of our nation certainly underwent at the Restoration, but rather became more vivacious in their action, as being no more bothered by any accompanying excess of ideality, wonder, and

Such, epitomized as much as possible, is an account of the moral and intellectual phenomena of English society during that period which corresponds with the last seventeen years of Butler's life. Upon such a public did the First and Second Parts of Hudibras fall, and in the midst of such a medley of persons, things, and interests, so far as it was represented in the metropolis, did the author of Hudibras, after his first temporary flash of success, trudge out and in on his daily peregrina tions from his domicile in or about Rose Street, Longacre. His personal relations with men of the time, we have already said,-or at least with men of the time who, from their station, could be of any use to him,-seem to have been few.

Here are two passages which give us all the knowledge of him in this respect that we are ever likely to have:

Butler's Introduction to Lord Dorset.-"His Lordship, having a great desire to spend an evening as a private gentleman with the author of Hudibras, prevailed with Mr. Fleetwood Shepherd to introduce him into his company at a tavern which they used, in the character only of a common friend. This being done, Mr. Butler, while the first bottle was drinking, appeared very flat and heavy; at the second bottle brisk and lively, full of wit and learning, and a most agreeable companion; but, before the third bottle was finished, he sunk again into such deep stupidity and dulness, that hardly anybody could have believed him to be the author of a book which abounded with so much wit, learning, and pleasantry. Next morning Mr. Shepherd asked his Lordship's opinion of Butler, who answered, 'He is like a ninepin, little at both ends, but great in the middle."-Quoted by Mr. Bell from the General Historical Dictionary,


Butler's Introduction to the Duke of Buckingham." Mr Wycherly had always laid hold of any opportunity of representing to the Duke of Buckingham 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 royalty 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 pretentions to his Majesty. Mr. Wycherly, in hopes to keep him steady to his word, obtained of his Grace to name a day when he might introduce that modest and unfortunate poet to his new patron. At last an appointment was made, and the place of meeting was agreed to be the Roebuck. Mr. Butler and his friend attended accordingly-the Duke joined them-but, as the d-1 would have it, the door of the room where they sat was open, and his Grace, who had seated himself near it, observing a pimp of his acquaintance (the creature, too, was a knight) trip by with a brace of ladies, immediately quitted his engagement to follow another kind of business; and from that time to the day of his death, poor Butler never found the least effect of his promise." -Quoted by Johnson in his "Lives of the Poets," from Packe's "Life of Wycherly."

From these passages, and one or two other stray notices, we are able to form a guess as to Butler's habits after he became a resident in town. He was known to Wycherly, to Hobbes, to Davenant, and, in a general way, as we may fancy, to all the more celebrated wits, Dryden included. There were very few men of any pretensions to literature, either as authors or amateurs, who would miss a


casual opportunity of at least seeing the author of Hudibras; and London was not then too large, nor the habits of men, as feehouses, and the like, too formal, to preregards means of meeting at taverns, cofvent such opportunities from being common. There are traditions also to the effect that at first he had offers from his more influential admirers of secretaryships and what not, but that, as he "would not accept anything but what was very good," they fell off from him, and left him to himself. On the whole, how. ever, the truth seems to be that there was something about him which unfitted him for making many friends, or being pushed on in the world. Whether from a natural moroseness, or from a morbid shyness which prevented him from seeking those who did not seek him, and even from retaining acquaintances who would have been glad to be intimate with him if they had had any encouragement, he seems to have been more solitary than almost any other man of his time equally known. There were a few persons who cultivated his friendship, and, as it were, drew him out in spite of himself; but they were mostly men of inferior note themselves, who, having a passion for the society of men of genius, had fastened on the author of Hudibras as the man of genius whom, by reason of his very shyness and eccentricity, they could most easily monopolize. Such a man was the gossip Aubrey, a kind of Boswell of his day, who fluttered about from one place of resort to another, and collected scraps for which we are now much obliged to him; such a man perhaps was the Mr. Fleetwood Shepherd, mentioned in one of the foregoing quotations; and such a man, above all, if indeed he was not a man of a higher class, was Mr. William Longueville, a bencher of the Temple, mentioned by a contemporary as having been a man of great powers of talk and of the kindest heart in the world, who had, by industry at the bar, acquired a comfortable fortune. This Mr. Longueville is known to have been poor Butler's best friend-perhaps the only real friend he had. Three times out of every four that he dined out, it would be at Mr. Longueville's chambers; and if ever in the course of his day's walk through town he paid a call, it would be by some appointment in which Mr. Longueville was concerned. Very seldom, however, if we guess aright, would he pay a call at all;


and most days of the week, when Mr. | tations. In the first canto we are re-introLongueville or some other crony did not duced to Hudibras and Ralpho just after waylay him, it would be his habit, after his their adventures with the conjuror, as rehodiernal ramble among the old book-lated in the "Second Part." They begin shops and other similar temptations, to re- to quarrel and make up their minds to part turn quietly home to his prose and his octo- company; Hudibras then makes for the syllabics. Whether Mrs. Butler remained widow's, to swear he has performed his long alive to make his evenings at home vow in the matter of the whipping, and to more cheery for him; and if so, what ask her hand in reward; Ralpho, howevthoughts of her old days and their vanished er, has his revenge by going there before chances passed through her head as, sit- him, and making the widow acquainted ting on one side of the fire with her knit- with the true state of the case; whereupting, she saw him silently worming on the on a nocturnal masquerade of furies and other among his books and papers, history hobgoblins is got up by the widow, Raldoes not tell us. And yet the life of every pho assisting, and Hudibras, after being man and woman that once lived and is pinched and cudgelled, is forced by the now dead, was, like our own while it last- ghostly terrors of his situation to confess ed, an infinite series of small sensitive ad- himself a hypocrite and scoundrel. In vances through a medium of circumstances; canto second, the poet leaves the knight and every day of each such life contained and the squire altogether, and interpolates, twenty-four complete hours, and every totally without any connection with the hour of the twenty-four contained sixty story, a satire on Puritanism generally in minutes, and each minute of every succes- the shape of a historical recapitulation of sive sixty had to be gone through indivi- the whole course of the Civil Wars down dually, and enjoyed or endured to the full. to the Restoration, with references by And so, though it is two hundred years, name to Cromwell, Fleetwood, Lentham, or about eight trillions of pulse-beats since Calamy, Case, Henderson, Owen, Nye, Butler trudged about London, and Mrs. Prynne, and others, both Presbyterians Butler waited for him in Rose Street, and Independents, and with more detailed that time really was once, and these two but covert allusions to the politician Shafelderly persons had their thoughts and tesbury, the quaker Lilburn, &c. Finally, their miseries whatever they were. in the third canto, we find the knight, just released from his last scrape by the deceitful Ralpho, taking counsel with a lawyer in order to obtain the widow and her property by inveigling her into a lawsuit ; as preliminary to which he writes her a letter and receives her answer. And so, the story abruptly breaks off; nor, at the same rate of progress, can any one say when it might have been finished.

But though Butler continued to lash the Puritans, both retrospectively by references to the Commonwealth period, and also by singling out subjects of ridicule from among them in their reduced condition as Nonconformists and Sectaries, Puritanism was by no means the sole subject of his satire. Indeed, it had never been so. In the earlier parts of his Hudibras, although satire of Puritanism and the Puritans constituted the direct and main drift of the story and its incessant argumentations and disquisitions, yet, as all who are acquainted with the poem know, there were passages innumerable, glancing off from the main topic at social abuses and bye-topics-at quackery in medicine; at the absurdities of the law and the frauds

Regarding Butler's spiritual relations to the various phenomena of the time in which he lived, we have the information of his own writings. And, first of all, it is abundantly clear that he never recanted his aversion to Puritanism, but persevered to the last in his original vocation as the satirist of it and its professors. Besides doing this in short incidental writings, some of which seem to have been published in periodicals and newspapers, he continued to do it on the same scale and in the same systematic form as before by (foolishly enough, we think; for there had been quite enough of it) going on with his Hudibras. After fourteen years of slow quarrying, the "Third Part" of this interminable work was given to the world in 1678, or two years before his death-a second and revised edition of the two preceding parts having been published in 1674. How the "Third Part" was received we do not know, but probably with less noise than its predecessors. As before, the story was the least of the merits of the poem-a mere thread on which to append all sorts of digressions and disser


of its practitioners; at astrology and false [Twice have men turned the world (that silly learning; at statecraft and its tricks; at the virtuosi of the Royal Society and their experiments; at love, widows, matrimony, and the foibles of men and women in general. And so, even more conspicuously, in the "Third Part" of the poem, notwithstanding the attempt made in the second canto to hash up the old subject so as to serve it afresh to the cloyed public palate. In short, though Butler was consistent in his old hatred to the end of his life, he found in the new social condition in which his old age was cast, as well as in his own bitter experience of human fickleness and ingratitude, new food for his constitution-eral al habit of censure.

"Princes that have lost their credit and reputation are like merchants inevitably destined to ruin; for all men immediately call in their loyalty and respect from the first, as they do their money from the latter."

The wrong side outward, like a juggler's pocket;
As e'er the devil could teach or sinners use,
Shook out hypocrisy, as fast and loose,
And on the other side at once put in
As impotent iniquity and sin.




Nor did Butler confine himself to gen

and wholesale denunciations.He dissected contemporary society into its specific parts and atoms-statesmen, lawyers, poets, physicians, divines, wits, &c.,

Anti-Puritan as he was, and disposed to loyalty in church and state, as on the whole the best arrangement a man could make with his conscience where all was as bad as it could be, the state of public morals and manners which the Restora

-and returned apparently the same merciless verdict on each part that he did on the whole. The most interesting and complete of all his prose writings, for example

tion had brought with it, found no apolo--that which, under the name of "Characters," fills the whole of the second volume of Thyer's "Remains," and which must evidently, from the care with which every page is written, have occupied much of Butler's time after the first two parts of Hudibras were off his hands, and have been destined by him for independent

gist in Butler. A man advanced in life, bred up too in honest English ways, and with a natural austerity of disposition which had probably always saved him from even the more venial forms of vice, he seems to have looked about him at the on-goings of the restored court, and the public men of his latter days, with no publication-consists of nothing else than other feelings than those of contempt and a series of sketches, written with an undisgust. There are evidences of this in varying acerbity and harshness hardly the last part of his great poem, where he paralleled in our literature, of what Butalmost shows an intention of falling foul ler must have considered the typical forms of the existing powers and scourging and phases of English human nature in them as he had scourged the opposite his time. We do not know how we can side; but the most express evidence of better give an idea of Butler's real charthe fact is to be found in those scraps of acter and temper than by copying out prose and verse which he left behind him this little-known list of characters"— jottings, so to speak, in his common- Butler's analysis, as it may be called, of place-book-to be published when he was contemporary English society, so far as no more. Here are two illustrations-the he was acquainted with it, into its confirst from the collection of his "Prose stituent particles. Thoughts upon various Subjects," printed in Thyer's Remains; the second from a short poetical piece there published under the title of "A Satire on the Licentiousness of the Age of Charles II."

"Tis a strange age we've lived in and a lewd As e'er the son in all his travels view'd.


For those who heretofore sought private holes
Securely in the dark to damn their souls,
Wore vizards of hypocrisy, to steal
And slink away, in masquerade, to hell,
Now bring their crimes into the open sun
For all mankind to gaze their worst upon."

1. A modern politician. 16. A. small poet.
2. An hypocritical non- 17. A philosopher.
18. A fantastic.

3. A republican.

4. A politician.

5. A state convert.
6. A risker.

7. A modern statesman.
8. A Duke of Bucks.
9. A degenerate noble.
10. A huffing courtier.
11. A court beggar.
12. A country squire.
13. An antiquary.
14. A proud man.
15. The hen-pecked man.

19. A melancholy man.
20. An haranguer.
21. A Popish priest.
22. A traveller.
23. A Catholic.

24. A curious man.
25. A ranter.

26. A corrupt judge.
27. An amorist.
28. An astrologer.
29. A lawyer.

30. An herald.

31. A Latitudinarian.

[blocks in formation]

44. A time-server.

45. A prater.


46. An hermetic philoso- 90.

58. A libeller.

59. A tedious man.
60. A tailor.

61. A factious member.
62. A pretender.
63. A newsmonger.
64. An ambassador.
65. A play-writer.
66. A mountebank.
67. A modern critic.
68. A wittal.
69. A busy man.

70. A litigious man.
71. A pedant.

72. A hunter.

good many of them are taken from the opposite side of society and politics altogether; some are taken from the literary department, and some from the scientific department of English life in that day; and many are altogether general, and have reference to lasting forms of human weakness, imposture, crime, and folly.

It was in the nature of Butler's satire, that, finding all to be equally censurable, it should express itself rather in representative portraits of classes, than in personalities. Occasionally, however, as in the character entiled "A Duke of Bucks," and in incidental allusions to Prynne and other sectaries, whom Butler seems to have particularly disliked, this rule is broken through; and in some of his posthumous scraps of verse, there is evidence that his satire could, when he liked, single out individual victims. Thus, among the scraps, we find a violent personal lampoon on

95. An hypocrite.

96. An opiniaster.
97. A choleric man.
98. A lover.

99. A translator.
100. A rebel.
101. A city wit.

102. A superstitious man. Denham; a squib on Philip Nye's beard;

103. A drole.
104. An empiric.

105. An obstinate man.
106. A zealot.
107. An overdoer.
108. A jealous man.
109. An insolent man.
110. A rash man.
111. A pimp.
112. A formal man.
113. A flatterer.
114. A prodigal.
115. A pettifogger.
116. A bankrupt.
117. The inconstant.
118. A horse-courser.

two mock panegyrics on Dryden's brother-
in-law, the Honorable Edward Howard,
on the occasion of a heroic drama which
he had written, and which Butler, and
most other critics, thought to be bad stuff';
and finally, which was boldest of all, a
parody of Dryden's own dramatic diction,
in the form of a dialogue between two cats
caterwauling in heroics. In fact, with the
whole literary world of the time, as with
the whole social world, Butler seems to.
have been in his heart at fued. Writers,
critics, readers-all were bad; and so far
as he thought it necessary to express his
opinion of them, it was always in censure.
Above all (and the fact must out) the
Royal Society and the Virtuosi came in
for an unsual share of Butler's ridicule.
One or two of them, such as Boyle and
Dr. Charlton, he attacks by name; and
among his posthumous poems and papers
there are three or four expressly satirizing
the Society's weekly meetings and their
mathematical and physical pursuits.

75. A debauched man.

76. A seditious man.

77. An affected man.
78. A medicine-taker.
79. The rude man.
80. A miser,

81. A rabble.

82. A shopkeeper.
83. A quaker.

84. A swearer.
85. A luxurious man.
86. An ungrateful man.
87. A Knight of the Post,
(hired perjurer.)
88. An undeserving fa-


A cuckold.

A malicious man.

91. A squire of dames.
92. A knave.

93. An anabaptist.

94. A vintner.

73. A humorist.

74. A leader of a faction.119. A glutton.

120. A ribald.

The fact that each and all of the characters in the above list are unsparing invectives, without one qualifying word in praise of any living thing or person, may arise in part from the circumstance, that Butler's literary forte was satire, and that he deliberately restricted himself, in writing them, to the mean and ugly side of things. But whoever reads the characters will see in their uniform and inexhaustible bitterness something more than this a positive dissatisfaction of Butler's own mind with all that he saw, and a habit of finding nothing in the world that was not, if well looked into, evil and intolerable. Were the "characters" classified, it would be found that only a certain proportion of them are taken from the Puritan or Nonconformist side of things. A

"These were their learned speculations,
And all their constant occupations:
To measure wind and weigh the air,
And turn a circle to a square;
To make a powder of the sun,
By which all doctors should b' undone;
To find the north-west passage out,
Although the farthest way about;
If chymists from a rose's ashes
Can raise the rose itself in glasses;
Whether the line of incidence
Rise from the object or the sense;

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »